By Jeff Nelson
Sunday, November 15, 2009
CHESTERTOWN, MD. -- As a first-time participant in a state championship game, and as a team that entered the postseason with a losing record, Blake had every reason to play Saturday night with a just-happy-to-be-here mentality.
But it didn't.
The Bengals wanted the 3A title, and sensed they could get it. That helps explain why they were able to challenge Hereford, and why they could be proud of their 1-0 loss at Washington College.
"This was the last game of the season, obviously, and we wanted to give it our all," Blake freshman Caroline Wannen said. "We didn't want to lose, of course. But if we had to lose, we wanted to go down fighting."
Exactly three weeks before Saturday night, the Bengals closed their regular season with a 2-1 defeat against Walter Johnson. It was their second loss in a row and gave them a 5-7 record entering the postseason.
Considering they had never won a region title before, there was little reason to expect them to be a state runner-up. But Blake (9-8) won its three games in the 3A West region by a combined score of 14-1 and then beat Northern, 6-0, in the state semifinals.
"We came into playoffs with rage," said Bengals senior Justine Allen, who led the team with 21 goals this season. "We came in and knew we were supposed to be here. Most people didn't think we should, because of our record. But when we stepped out on this field, we wanted to win states because our school has never won a [team] state title."
Against Hereford, the Bengals had their first scoring opportunity with 22 minutes 35 seconds remaining in the first half, when a pass crossed the face of an open goal. A pair of Bengals appeared to have a chance to deflect it in, but couldn't get their sticks on the ball.
A minute later, Bulls senior Taylor Cummins scored the game's lone goal.
Hereford kept possession on Blake's side of the field for much of the next 10 minutes, but the Bengals mounted a charge at the end of the half. Their closest call came when a shot by Nicole Pontious deflected up and hit the outside of the post.
Both teams had a handful of offensive opportunities in the second half, but Blake could never equalize.
Now six seniors will leave the program after its best postseason run, and many underclassmen will return with designs on an even better finish in 2010.
"Next year, we can come back and do it all again," Wannen said. "We're going to try our hardest."