Delmar’s season-long mission to win a state championship came within 13 minutes of being derailed Saturday.
But the Wildcats finally found a way past fabulous Wilmington Friends goalkeeper Maddie Gillerlain, as Booter Ellis and Paige Twilley-Webster scored to give Delmar a 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals of the DIAA Field Hockey Tournament at Milford High.
“It definitely scared me, but I knew my team would pull through,” Twilley-Webster said. “I knew we had it in us.”
The third-seeded Wildcats (16-1) have lost to Cape Henlopen in the last two state title games. They would love a rematch, but first comes a semifinal against Tatnall at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Dover High.
Delmar outshot Friends 15-4 and piled up 20 penalty corners. But the Quakers’ back line of Jacqueline Conner, Danielle Kuller, Grayton Downing and Molly Harper stopped most of those corners, and Gillerlain swatted away anything that got through.
The 11th-seeded Quakers (10-4-3) only had three corners but made the third one count when Elena Veale converted a perfect pass from Margo Tschantz to put Friends up 1-0 with 22:06 to play.
Gillerlain was at her spectacular best over the next five minutes, stopping back-to-back drives by Ellis off a corner and sweeping another potential goal off the line as Delmar was already celebrating.
“She was inspiring,” Friends coach Scott Clothier said of Gillerlain. “It’s a great confidence booster to the entire team when your keeper is making those kinds of saves.”
Finally, Ellis wheeled to her right and blasted a laser between Gillerlain’s pads and blocker with 13:17 remaining. Then Twilley-Webster scored on a sharp feed from Tessa Jarvis with 10:48 to play.
“I didn’t do it on my own. It took the whole team to do it,” Twilley-Webster said. “It just felt amazing when it happened. It was awesome.”
The Delmar roster is loaded with 10 seniors, and Wildcats coach Jodi Hollamon believes that made the difference.
“I was proud of the fact that they scored first, and we came back and didn’t let that bother us,” Hollamon said. “We put two away pretty quickly after that, so I think it showed our age and experience in this type of play.”
When the Wildcats finally found an opening, they barged through.
“In the second half, Delmar came at us very strong and just kept the press, kept the press, kept the press,” Clothier said. “It’s tough to defend that many corners without letting one go in. And then when one went in, they really came at us even harder.”