Three months ago, when Atholton took the field for its first practice under Coach Martie Dyer, the Raiders appeared to be looking at a rebuilding season. New formations were installed and nearly every returning player found herself at a different position, creating a steep learning curve that spilled over into a season-opening loss to Mount de Sales.
Fifteen games later, Atholton’s reconstruction has yielded a Maryland 3A state finalist following Wednesday’s 4-0 victory against Northern at Broadneck High in Annapolis.
Briana Stine scored two goals to lead an offensive barrage that saw the Raiders (14-2) outshoot the Patriots, 17-3, in the semifinal.
“We wanted a different style of play and we felt we had a good group on our hands, so we moved them all around at the start of the season and put them to the test,” Dyer said. “Since that first loss, they’ve really responded to where tonight, they just played pretty hockey.”
Stine put the Raiders out front early, converting a shot in front of the goal at the 18:02 mark for her 13th score. Twelve minutes later, sophomore Jennifer Bleakney doubled the lead with a left-handed shot from 15 yards out near the top of the circle.
By halftime, the Raiders had allowed only one shot on goal from the Patriots (10-5-1) and dominated the time of possession, but Stine and the rest of the Raiders knew better than to let up.
“No matter what the score is or how much time is left, our coach always says the same message, ‘Don’t rest on your laurels,’ ” Stine said. “So we just try to pretend like the score is still 0-0 and stay aggressive.”
This attitude resurfaced less than three minutes into the second half. Rachel Day, who moved from defender to forward this season, stole the ball in Patriot territory and sent a pinpoint pass to the right side, where Stine punched in her second goal of the night.
Atholton will meet Hereford Saturday in the 3A state final at 4 p.m. at Washington College. Hereford beat Linganore, 2-0, in the other state semifinal.