Shared titles leave some fit to be tied

High schools: Ties in state and league finals in soccer and field hockey are increasing, raising the question as to whether it's better to crown co-champions or determine one winner.

High Schools

November 20, 2001|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Loch Raven goalkeeper Molly Rogers left Saturday's state girls soccer final with a championship trophy, but she didn't quite feel like a champion.

After the Raiders tied Smithsburg for the Class 1A title -- their second co-championship in three years -- Rogers could not reconcile her satisfaction at claiming the title with her disappointment over not winning the game.

"It's frustrating," Rogers said. "Especially after tying two years ago, I really wanted to win one. I wanted it to go into a shootout and just win it."

This fall, more state finals than ever have ended in ties, leaving many athletes, coaches and fans not knowing exactly how to feel.

"It's kind of a weird feeling," Hereford field hockey goalie Christina Restivo said after the Bulls shared the 2A crown with Bethesda-Chevy Chase. "You knew your season was over and you were in a tie. Everyone is waiting to know who actually is the best and you never get to that point."

In addition to Loch Raven and Hereford, Westminster's field hockey team tied Quince Orchard for the 4A title, and Centennial's girls soccer team tied Bethesda-Chevy Chase for the 2A title.

In the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference, Bryn Mawr and St. Paul's tied for the field hockey championship in the only game in which both teams seemed genuinely pleased to share the title.

Among those two sports and boys soccer, there had never been more than three championship games ending in ties in a single season. In the 1995 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association soccer tournament, the A, B and C Conference finals all ended in ties.

Ties have become almost annual occurrences in field hockey and girls soccer.

The state field hockey tournament this fall featured one close game after another. Eight of the 12 semifinal and final games went to overtime. Four semifinals were decided in shootouts.

Hereford girls soccer coach Steve Power experienced a state final tie in 1999 and said he expects the trend to continue.

"Great teams have great players in the back, so it's very difficult to score," Power said. "You can put seven or eight girls behind the ball and just counter, and that particular strategy is good in tournament play. You can't lose if the other team doesn't score."

That leaves some players and coaches calling for a way to determine a single winner. Most players and coaches don't like the idea of penalty-kick or penalty-stroke shootouts, but some would prefer anything to a tie.

"If we can do it in the semifinal, then we should be able to do it [in the final]," said Westminster field hockey goalie Emily Chamelin, whose team lost two straight state semifinal shootouts before winning one in this fall's semifinal.

Until 1983, there were no ties in the state finals, because any games that remained tied after overtime went to shootouts. Then, the committees for the state field hockey and boys soccer tournaments decided that declaring co-champions would be fairer.

"We found that goalkeepers missing the strokes and shooters missing the shots were just devastated," said Phyllis Hemmes, Bel Air coach and director of the state field hockey tournament.

"These kids thought it was their fault no matter what anyone said to them. The committee felt that if two teams got to the state finals and they fought long and hard, it shouldn't come down to two people winning and losing that ballgame."

Since 1983, there have been nine ties in state field hockey tournament finals, 14 in boys soccer and seven in girls soccer, which has had a state tournament only since 1989.

While some players, such as Rogers and Restivo, neither of whom has ever lost in a shootout, would like to see a shootout determine one winner in the finals, others would not.

"I don't think that's a fair judgment of how a team can play," said Centennial forward Julie Ritcher. "It's silly to play 100 minutes and end it on PKs."

Towson field hockey goalie Jessy Willse and Eastern Tech boys soccer keeper Lawrence Ramsey have a different perspective on shootouts than any of those whose teams made it to the state finals. Each played for a No. 1 team that lost in a shootout in an earlier round of the tournament.

"I was heartbroken," said Willse, a first-year keeper who was inconsolable after the Generals fell in a regional final shootout to Hereford and veteran keeper Restivo.

"Being in that situation was one of the most high-pressure, intense situations I've ever been in. I don't think people can understand it until they've gone through it. I know I would rather have co-champions. I wouldn't want to risk that pain or have to watch the other team go through it."

Ramsey had a more philosophical reaction to the loss, but he is no more in favor of shootouts than Willse.

"I don't think going down to a shootout determines who is the best team," Ramsey said, "because the shooters are supposed to score. It's just a guessing game for the goalie. You pick a side and go with it."

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