To win the state title, the Stephen Decatur girls lacrosse team will have to beat a Century program that has won the state championship in five times out 10 state tournament appearances and was a finalist in four other years.
If the Seahawks felt any pressure, it wasn’t noticeable during their practice Monday as the girls belted out the lyrics to “Kanye” by The Chainsmokers.
The up-beat, almost annoying but catchy song that fits practice warmup tosses just right and has been played all season — so much that even head coach Bob Musitano knows who Kanye West is now.
But while the Decatur girls still have their chipper and humorous personalities, once the music stopped, drills began with crisp precision.
The Seahawks are going to need their best game yet of the perfect 17-0 season to beat the Knights (16-3).
“They’re a strong team,” Musitano said. “They have two players, No. 25 (Hannah Warther) and No. 20 (Madi Hall). They work a lot of their offense from up top — fast and aggressive. They play the game the way you expect a team would that gets to the final.”
Defense wins championships
LaxPower.com has Century ranked No. 2 in the public section of Maryland and Decatur as No. 8. Both teams average more than 14 goals and allow less than eight a game, with Decatur’s down to 4.71 goals allowed per game, but Century has the stronger schedule.
With all the focus on the high-powered offenses, however, defense will likely play a deciding role.
So much talk of offense has overshadowed the young and promising players on the Seahawks’ back line.
Anchored by senior Jillian Petito in the cage, senior Ally Beck, junior Peyton Townsend and sophomore Jillian Mitrecic are the three back defenders.
On the wings, sophomores Brigette Ardis and Christina Romano play a crucial role, too.
No Seahawk player has watched them closer than senior Jenna Leitgeb, who has missed the season with an ACL injury.
“They stepped up,” Leitgeb said. “They have worked in practice and I think it’s been really helpful that they have been able to work with each other the entire season. … They really just have done a phenomenal job. I can’t really say anything else, especially watching and obviously wanting to be out there and with them.”
The young defenders credit Petito, who really does stop anything not right on top of her, but the cohesion of the group as a whole has come up in some big moments.
Against Hereford, the Seahawks got the stops and saves that helped them come back from being down 6-5, winning 7-6 to make it to Wednesday’s 6 p.m. game against Century at Stevenson University.
Meitrecic called it nerve-wracking, but they just stuck to the assignments and relied on Petito when they needed to.
“I don’t know what we would do without Jillian Petito,” Mitrecic said. “She’s the heart and soul of the defense. She tells us where we need to be, what we need to be doing. Most of the time, almost the whole time, she’s right.”
Townsend said a key was paying attention to the scouting report, marking up the right distance and keeping it compact.
“Crashing was a huge thing (against Hereford) and picking up the second cutters who were coming off after the crash,” Townsend said. “Mainly, we just have to keep working together.”
The offensive keys
The defense kept the Seahawks in the game against Hereford’s high-pressure defense that caused the Seahawks’ offense problems.
Loose passes and a failure to execute some clears led to points of the game with the ball in Hereford’s possession but no goals.
That being said, senior Payton VanKirk and the rest of the Decatur scoring threats have been working the inside shots, placement and finishing.
“Playing such an awesome team like Century, we know that they’re great competition, we know that they’re tough and we really need to focus on the things we do well,” VanKirk said. “In our state semis game, our feeding from behind and Lexie working from up top, that’s something we do really well. And at times that it got really tough, we stuck to the things we knew and I think that’s what got us through that game.”
Century’s defense, according to Musitano’s scouting, doesn’t pressure as much as Hereford did, but the Knights did only allow two goals in their 19-2 state semifinal win against Middletown.
If the Seahawks’ defense can control Warther and Hall and the offense finds the hot hand and whoever is not being doubled, Musitano said that’s all he can hope for.
“I think we’re going to have to play a game like we played against Queen Anne’s both times,” Musitano said. “They weren’t perfect games but they were intense games and they never lost their focus. The same when they played Cape and Worcester Prep.
“They can beat this team.”
• Prediction: The stats and strength of schedule and overall history point toward Century being the favorite and winner. But who doesn’t like destiny? A perfect 18-0 sounds too good to pass up and I think the Seahawks pull off another thriller, 11-10.
On Twitter/Instagram: @DTimes_Marshall
If you go
Who: Century vs. Stephen Decatur
What: MPSSAA 3A/2A girls lacrosse state title
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Stevenson University