Long Reach finishes off River Hill with 2-0 win

Lightning gets revenge, moves to regional final

Field hockey

High Schools

October 31, 2001|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Yesterday's regional field hockey showdown between Howard County rivals No. 4 Long Reach and No. 7 River Hill started the same way their regular-season game had begun -- with Long Reach dominating. That's where the similarity ended.

In the first meeting, the Lightning, unable to capitalize on its many scoring opportunities, lost. Yesterday, however, the Lightning did manage to finish, as Sherry Epperson and Shelby Orndoff led Long Reach to a 2-0 victory over the host Hawks in a Class 3A North Region semifinal.

The Lightning (14-2) advances to meet No. 10 Mount Hebron, a 1-0 winner over No. 12 North Carroll in yesterday's other semifinal, for the regional title tomorrow afternoon at Long Reach.

For two straight years, the Lightning has won the regional crown and gone on to the state final, but to move on yesterday, it had to avenge that 6-week-old 1-0 loss to River Hill (12-2-2).

"Last time, the only thing we couldn't do was finish off in the circle," Epperson said, "but this time, we knew this was it, we had to win. We were fired up all day."

The game set up Howard County's most prolific scoring team, Long Reach, against its stingiest defensive team, River Hill. The Lightning had scored 64 goals coming into the game, an average of 4.3 per game. The Hawks had given up only three goals and had posted 13 shutouts.

The pressure, however, was on the Hawks' defense from the start. The Lightning had seven penalty corners and four shots in the first 17 minutes before Epperson's goal.

Near the top of the circle, Epperson roamed unmarked. She received a pass from Elizabeth Clark and drove it past Hawks goalie Kate Macon (seven saves) to the right corner of the cage.

"I just hit it as hard as I could," Epperson said. "I was surprised it went through their whole defense and their goalie. It felt so good, because it's hard to get balls through them. They usually just stand there and bang it back out at us."

Orndoff added an insurance goal four minutes into the second half off a well-executed corner play. Epperson fed her the ball just to the left of the stroke line for the shot.

"That's a play we've done over and over in practice with the midfield pushing the ball up and the forwards ready to take the shot," Orndoff said. "We know Kate Macon is a strong goalie and I had to get it on a corner."

The Lightning, which posted its 11th shutout, also got a strong game from goalie Jessica Robertson, who stopped all four Hawks shots. Midfielder Meagan Dwyer, who came up from JV for the playoffs, played a key role, using her speed to contain Hawks stellar midfielder Shannon Goans.

"I guess they were just more fired up because we beat them last time," said Goans, who was slightly hobbled by a twisted ankle. "After that first goal, instead of picking it up, it seemed like we lost a little hope and our team didn't play as hard as we should have."

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