'We just started a new tradition' Field hockey: After years of playoff frustration, Mount Hebron took a major step forward with its first-round victory last week.

October 26, 1997|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

The last time it happened at Mount Hebron was 1982. Emily Payne was 2.

She doesn't want to think about it.

"I only look to the next game," said the Vikings senior midfielder. "We go one game at a time."

OK, one game at a time.

Mount Hebron began the season with a 4-0 loss against McDonogh. The Vikings beat Perry Hall, 1-0, then Bel Air, 3-0, then won six straight games by one-goal margins. They tied River Hill, 1-1, then ended the regular season with 4-0 wins against Howard and Centennial.

A very nice season for coach Jeannette Ireland and her group, one game at a time. The Vikings went 8-0-1 for their second straight county title, and 10-1-1 overall.

But it's not over.

Yes, the playoffs have started. Yes, Mount Hebron has played.

YES, Mount Hebron still is alive.

"It feels like we just started a new tradition for Hebron field hockey," said Vikings midfielder Trish Derwart after last Wednesday's 2-0 victory over Howard in a first-round Class 2A South playoff game. "It's a great feeling. It felt good to win against Centennial, but this Jeannette's never won 11 games since she's been here."

And Ireland's teams had never won a first-round playoff game in six tries.

"We finally got past it," said Ireland, now in her eighth season.

"It feels fantastic," said Payne after the playoff victory. "I can't tell you how much this means to me, especially this being my senior year. My sophomore year we were expected to be one of the top teams in the county and it didn't happen for us. Last year we won the county then lost the first playoff game. I finally feel like all the hard work I've put in the last three years has paid off, and I couldn't ask for a better team to be on to do it with."

Mount Hebron graduated 10 players from last year's team -- "the most skilled team I've ever had," said Ireland. Three starters -- senior midfielders Payne and Derwart, and senior back Kristin Jeschke -- returned. Ten players from last year's county junior varsity championship team moved up.

"We had a lot of work to do, obviously," Ireland said. "But this team knew how to win. Because they knew how to win, and played hard, I knew that if we could hang on in the beginning of the season and develop we could be here."

"I had my doubts at the beginning of the season," said Payne, who had one goal and one assist against Howard. "I knew we had good athletes on the JV. I knew if we could put it together we'd definitely be trouble in the county. I guess I didn't think we'd get as far as we did, but I'm very, very happy."

So how did they do it?

Mount Hebron is a very athletic team that, under Ireland, has become a very good field hockey team. And a number of players -- including sophomores Katelyn Hoffman (goalie), Polly Purcell (forward), Katie Jeschke (forward) and Liz Eberhart (midfielder), junior Becky Phillips (sweeper) and senior Sue Lee (forward) -- have stepped up.

"It's very rewarding to see a team develop like they have," Ireland said. "I'm very proud of them."

The team is made up of five seniors, five juniors and five sophomores. It is a very close unit.

"There's more team chemistry then there's been in the past, and I think that has made a huge difference," said Payne. "We love to come to practice. We love to spend time with each other. We're friends on and off the field, and it comes through when we play."

Said Dewart: "This team really has a lot of heart. We may not have had a lot of skill at first, but we really dug deep this season, and the team with the bigger heart is going to come out on top and that is what this team is going to do."

The Vikings play host to Franklin Tuesday in a region semifinal. A victory would put them in Thursday's final against either Atholton or Long Reach, teams Mount Hebron already has beaten this season.

And a win Thursday would mean a region title and a trip to the state tournament.

The last time Hebron won a region title?

Emily Payne was 2.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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