It was all set up for the Pocomoke Warriors field hockey team to make it into the MPSSAA 1A state final.
The only thing standing in the Warriors’ way was Fallston Cougars’ senior attacker Liz Hebert and goalkeeper Caitlin Phillips.
Pocomoke forced two penalty corners in the opening minute of sudden-death overtime after the two teams were tied 1-1 after regulation.
Dani Batze, Lexi Butler, McKenzie Mitchell and Peyton Becker all had whacks at the two corners, but the Cougars’ goalie scrambled to make the saves.
“Too close, but not enough,” Warriors’ head coach Susan Pusey said. “It’s hard. They played their hearts out. The goalkeeper kept them in the game I really think. The game was back-and-forth but we had more opportunities than they did to put the ball in the cage, but there goalkeeper is a good goalkeeper.”
On the transition after Fallston cleared, the Cougars earned their first corner of overtime with seven minutes remaining.
That’s when Hebert struck for her second goal to give Fallston the 2-1 win Monday at Broadneck High School in Annapolis.
After a scrum in front of the net, the ball fell to Hebert’s stick and there was nothing Pocomoke could do as she slid it home to send Fallston to the finals against North Carroll on Saturday at Washington College.
“Well the season was awesome,” Pusey said. “We’re fortunate we’re here to play this game. We did a nice job. We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities that we had available for us there. The girls did play hard. I know they played their hearts out, it’s unfortunate, but somebody has to win and has to lose. And in a game like this, seven-on-seven, score is 1-1, it’s going to be unfortunate (for one team because) whoever scores first is the one that’s going to win.”
Senior defender Patrice Brittingham said Hebert just slipped off the marking of Pocomoke defenders and that’s why she was able to get the goal.
As one of the four seniors on the team along with Kayla Cold, Brooke Sander and Carly Adams, Brittingham said the Warriors still played great defensively.
As Pocomoke walked head in hands back to its bench, Fallston piled on top of Hebert in Pocomoke’s net.
But after the initial shock, the tone wasn’t one of sadness for the Warriors.
“I knew that we had to keep our heads up,” Brittingham said. “We had a great season. I couldn’t ask for a better team to make it this far with.”
Hebert was a menace to deal will all evening. Her speed and ball skills pushed the Warriors back into their end for a lot of the evening.
“They had a lot of speed,” Pusey said. “When we looked at her, we saw her on grass so she wasn’t moving as quick. You can’t tell. But Alice Puckett is a great coach, she’s come back to the game. … So I knew it was going to be tough, but I will again say that we’re a small school, 350 kids and playing somebody three times as we are that’s a difference too. … So I feel good as well as we did.”
Hebert struck first for Fallston 24 minutes into the first half.
After the corner was played in, Kylie Ryan scooped a shot toward net and Hebert brought her stick horizontal to her chest and tapped it high in the left corner to give Fallston the 1-0 lead.
The Cougars had controlled most of the ball leading up to the goal, earning the first corner with 14 minutes left in the half.
Ryan tapped it to Becky Streett, who wound up and fired a shot just wide left of Pocomoke goalkeeper D’Nasia Jones’ cage.
After Fallston’s first corner, Pocomoke flew down the field to earn its first corner of the night.
The Warriors worked a play nicely for Lexi Butler, who just mishit her shot and Fallston cleared.
On the next corner, Pocomoke inched even closer to tying the score. McKenzie Mitchell found a loose ball on the right, but the angle was too tight and she smacked it into the side netting.
But on the next one, Pocomoke didn’t miss. With about three minutes left in the half, Butler did not mishit her shot this time. She sent a rocket toward net and Batze deflected it home in a split second to tie the game.
“It was very relieving and confidence building that we were back in it,” Batze said. “It was like we were tied up again and gave us the self-confidence that we can do this.”
But that momentum Pocomoke had built heading into halftime was lost during the break.
Fallston took charge for almost all of the second half.
Between minutes 13 and 10, Fallston managed three corners, but each time Pocomoke stood tall.
When the Cougars got a shot off, Ryan’s and Streett’s shots went wide.
The Warriors counterattacked with 9:30 left and had their best chance to take the lead.
Beauchamp knocked it toward the goal with a nifty backswing and crossed to Butler, who charged into the middle.
Butler got a shot off but Phillips dropped to her knees to make the save. It was the second shot she saved of Butler’s this half.
Pocomoke started to gain its own momentum back and earned a penalty corner with 1:10 left in the game.
But again Phillips kicked the ball away.
Butler, who was a threat all game and had scored 28 goals this season, just couldn’t find the net in the wave of white Fallston jerseys near the goalkeeper.
“I feel like this season we stepped up a lot and really pushed through and unfortunately this game, shouldn’t have ended the way it did,” Butler said. “We just came out with a loss. We played really great I think throughout the whole game. But just one loose goal kinda ended it for us.”
But there was a bright side to this loss for Pocomoke.
They are only losing four seniors and return the majority of the starters and this loss ended a streak of 11 in a row.
Pusey said the Warriors came out a little shaky Monday. Butler said the turf was a little quicker than at Pocomoke.
That was a little bit of the youth showing, Pusey said.
“Oh I think so,” Pusey said. “But like I just told them, ‘You hold your heads high. This prepares us for next year. Because none of you have been here, but you got a taste of it and know what it’s like.’ “
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