Warner wins by comparison Senior leads Owls to state semifinals

November 15, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Sara Warner can't believe it.

First, she makes the North squad for Wednesday night's All-Star field hockey game at Johns Hopkins, and now she is being compared to former teammate Tinah Houck, who is considered one of the top field hockey players to come out of Westminster High.

"It kind of blows my mind," said Warner. "I can't imagine people talking about me and Tinah. I always look at Tinah as being bigger and better than I am."

But Westminster co-coach Sue Hooper said last week that Warner is the closest thing the Owls had this season to Houck, who is starring as a freshman for the College of Notre Dame.

"Sara has a hard shot similar to Tinah," Hooper said of the senior standout who helped lead the Owls to a 12-3 record and a surprising semifinal berth in the state Class 4A tournament. "She reminds me of Tinah on the corners the way she can send the ball into the cage. The amazing thing about her is she was cut from the junior varsity as a ninth-grader and wound up playing just three years. Most of our girls are four-year players."

Being cut from the junior varsity by Hooper and co-coach Brenda Baker proved to be the first step toward Warner's becoming one of the top players in one of the most prestigious field hockey programs in the state.

Warner went home that night with a vow to make the team as a sophomore.

"I went out in my yard and began practicing for hours every day," she said. "I used the steps on the porch to practice my flicks, I set up boxes to dodge around, and I used the fence to drive my long hits off of. Also, I went to camp at Loyola College."

By the end of her sophomore season, Warner was good enough to be moved up to the Owls' varsity for the playoffs.

That would be the first of three straight trips to the state 4A tournament at Goucher College for the 5-foot-6 defender.

Warner was part of Westminster's drive to a state championship as a sophomore, then helped the team finish second last season as a part-time starter, and became a team leader this season on a scrappy squad that nearly made it to the finals again.

The Owls were 5 minutes, 13 seconds away from defeating Richard Montgomery last Wednesday in the 4A semis, clinging to a 1-0 lead that eventually was wiped out by two fast-break goals by the Rockets for a 2-1 win in overtime.

Warner was the quarterback of the Westminster defense that registered eight shutouts in 12 regular-season games and was on the verge of a ninth one.

"When they [Richard Montgomery] started using their wings in the second half, it tired out our halfbacks," said Warner, who admitted to becoming something of a monster once she got on the field this season.

"I'm just one of the girls in school and in practice. But once the game starts, I change. I guess I'm a little like a monster. When I do talk, it's because I have something to say. No one else is yelling in games and someone has to do it. I tell my teammates to get out of my way, stay at home in their positions, scoot up some and back me up. When the game is over, I'm a normal person again."

None of this escaped the watchful eyes of Hooper and Baker.

"Sara is a leader on defense," said Hooper. "She kept everybody up. She's a quiet kid, but the others knew she meant business on the field."

In addition to her defensive work, the senior standout scored five goals and had two taken away because of infractions.

"It was my best season so far and now I hope to play in college," said Warner, who is looking at Division I, II and III schools.

The girl who wasn't good enough to make the field hockey play days in the eighth grade and the junior varsity in the ninth grade has come a long way.

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