For the seven-on-seven overtime session in Friday's Maryland 3A South Region field hockey final at La Plata, Northern Coach Dawn Moore decided she wanted forward Brittany Hawkins in the game to take advantage of the sophomore's speed.
It was a wise choice. When the ball slithered through the last line of La Plata's defense with less than a minute left in the first sudden-death extra session, Hawkins flew to the ball, dribbled it to the goal and pushed a shot into the cage to give the Patriots a 1-0 victory over the top-seeded Warriors and a berth in the state semifinals.
"I was thinking, 'Oh God, I better get it in, it's one-on-one against the goalie, and you've been practicing this forever,' " Hawkins said. "I was really nervous."
Hawkins's breakaway goal gave Northern, which lost in the regional final last season in overtime, its first berth in the state tournament since 2001. The Patriots (13-4) will face Bethesda-Chevy Chase, a 2-0 winner over Frederick in Friday's 3A West final, in the state semifinals either tomorrow or Wednesday.
The goal brought an abrupt but familiar end to La Plata's season. Last year, Northern beat the Warriors in the regional semifinals in penalty strokes.
This year, La Plata (13-3) beat Northern, 2-0, during the regular season. Friday, the Warriors dominated the overtime session before Hawkins got loose for her goal, which came on Northern's first shot in extra time. La Plata had six shots in overtime and several opportunities in transition but could not score.
"We played tough; we thought we dominated. We definitely dominated overtime; we just couldn't get it in," La Plata Coach Pomie Radcliffe said. "It was a lucky break. I told the girls they played an excellent game."
Neither team had many scoring chances in regulation as the defenses dominated -- La Plata managed five shots, Northern had just three. In overtime, La Plata seemed poised to put the game away several times but could not convert. Northern goalie Anne Anderson had much to do with that, making three of her five saves in the extra session and breaking up several scoring chances by kicking the ball away from the goal.
"It was probably one of her best games this season," Moore said. "She played very conservatively but made some nice saves and smart saves when she committed to go to the ball."