WORTON — Nothing was working.
Kent County’s field hockey team had taken 13 penalty corners in the first half of the Class 1A East Region I championship on Wednesday, Oct. 30, and not one had found the back of the cage.
“We went through every corner and then we went through them again,” Kent County head coach Suzie Wright-Taylor said.
And then St. Michaels struck for the game’s first goal.
“Oh crap, we need a score,” Kent County’s Kate Ervin said. “This should not be happening because we had so many corners and we tried every single one. And when they scored it was like we were heartbroken. It was like, ‘No, we’ve had all these corners and none of them went in.’”
The Trojans’ 17th corner did go in, triggering a three-goal flurry in a 7-minute, 24-second span that proved just enough to hold off a late Saints surge, as Kent County earned a 3-2 victory for the Region I championship and a berth in the state’s new eight-team format.
“We’ve struggled all season with scoring,” Wright-Taylor said. “That’s been our season the first half. Having corner after corner and not being able to capitalize, and I was like, ‘Uh, oh.’ But hopefully we are over that hump.”
After suffering five one-goal losses this season, Kent County (6-8) looked primed to take an early lead, mounting heavy pressure on St. Michaels, piling up the 13 corners, yet managing just one shot on Saints goalie Sami Washburn.
“It may not seem that way, because we’ve lost a lot of games, but they’re really like the brick and mortar of my team,” St. Michaels head coach Missy Cannon said of her defense, which includes Adrianna DiSilvestro, Georgia Kline, Mecala Jones and Macy Motovidlak. “They really like hold down the fort. It may not seem that way when you have 13 corners. But then you look back and you’re like, ‘Oh, they have 13 corners and no goals.’”
St. Michaels sophomore Haley Sadler then sent a shockwave through the home crowd when she scored off a corner with 6 minutes, 31 seconds elapsed in the second half for a 1-0 lead.
“Chills,” Cannon said of Sadler’s score. “That was a beautiful goal.”
A goal that immediately had the Trojans putting pressure back on the St. Michaels cage, producing four more corners.
“There was a lot of time left,” Wright-Taylor said. “We had to come off that and just think offense, offense, and figure out the right winning combination of those corners to capitalize. But we made some minor adjustments at halftime with corners and just with offense and actually defensively.”
Less than three minutes after Sadler’s initial jolt, Kent earned its 17th corner and this time Ervin scored off a feed from Mira Hitzges for a 1-1 tie.
“I wasn’t planning on taking that shot at all,” Ervin said. “It was a straight shot, and I didn’t think that was going to go in, but it did.”
Just 2:27 later, Ervin gathered a pass from Ally Hickman and slipped one through Washburn’s pads for a 2-1 lead.
“We were like, ‘OK, we’re beating them by one point,” Ervin said. “We’ve got to get another one for safety.”
The Trojans added another one, off their seventh corner of the half, as Hickman poked in a pass from Hitzges for a 3-1 lead with 13:18 remaining.
St. Michaels (3-10), which stunned top-seeded Elkton in the closing seconds on Oct. 28, carried the action back into Kent territory, and with 7:04 left, Sadler passed to Jones, who ripped a shot past Trojan goalie Caroline Milligan, drawing within 3-2.
“When they got another one everybody was like, ‘Oh, boy. Oh, boy,’” Ervin said.
St. Michaels continued pressuring the Kent cage, picking up four corners in the final five minutes, and hitting shots wide on both sides of the cage before the final horn sounded.
“The defense has held us through so many games so we could work through the offensive kinks, and get the offense going,” Wright-Taylor said, praising the play of Hickman, Katie Wade, Annie Page Brocker and Milligan, a junior who had never played field hockey prior to this season. “Our goalie is brand new. She has done a phenomenal job.”
As did St. Michaels, which played with an urgency never before seen this season while delivering its finest performance in its final game.
“This is our best game of the year for sure,” Cannon said of a team made up of five seniors, a junior and a combination of 13 sophomores and freshmen. “We have a really young team. We would have had a totally different season if we had played that way all year long.”
NOTE: Kent County faced off against No. 1 seed Liberty in the state quarterfinals Friday. The unbeaten Lions eliminated the Trojans, 8-0, to earn their fourth consecutive state semifinal berth.
Liberty (16-0) is the defending Class 2A state champion.
We will report on the game in next week’s issue.