Walking off the field Monday night, South River field hockey coach Laura Hoffner gave an assessment that makes her team's future look both bright and cloudy.
"I've got a young team. I'm not losing very many people," Hoffner said after leading the Seahawks to their second state title with a 1-0 win over Whitman in the 4A title game.
"Except for my goalie."
Thankfully for Hoffner, senior Irene Jorden was in the cage to make 16 saves and help the Seahawks (17-3) hold off a steady Whitman attack in the second half.
"Those last 10 minutes, Irene was incredible," Hoffner said.
So was the defense, killing off four straight penalty corners late in the second half and keeping Whitman away just long enough to preserve the win. The Seahawks, with very few exceptions this season, have controlled the game at the offensive end. However, Monday night, players like Shannon Long (21 goals) and Janna Wojtech (11 goals) were forced to play far more defensively than they were used to.
"They came so close a few times. Between Irene and our defense, they were just solid tonight," Long said.
"Our defense definitely played a lot tonight. They came through for us big time."
Almost lost in the defensive triumph was Molly Gregoire, who scored the game's only goal with 23 minutes 57 seconds left in the game. The goal was particularly satisfying for the sophomore midfielder, who had scored just twice before Monday and remembered how it felt last season to come up short in the state tournament.
The Seahawks led Springbrook by a goal in the 2003 state semifinals when the Blue Devils scored minutes before the game was suspended by rain. When the teams returned to the field the following day, Springbrook scored again and went on to win the school's first state title.
"It pumped us up because [last year] we knew we were the better team and we should have won states," Gregoire said. "It just pumped us for this game and we knew we could win."
After Broadneck advanced to the volleyball state semifinals Friday, hitter Ali Malesich described the achievement. "Oh my gosh, I can't believe it," Malesich said. "It's so, like, exciting! Look at all the cool stuff we're doing!"
Call it a freshman reaction. It's the only time Malesich has shown her age all year.
The 5-foot-10 freshman emerged last week as a force for the Bruins, and she may have been the primary reason they beat Arundel in the 4A East Region final Friday, 25-17, 14-25, 25-14, 25-21. With the win, Broadneck earned its fifth straight region title and a trip to the state semifinals against Thomas Johnson on Tuesday, in a game that ended too late for this edition.
Malesich, who had not played volleyball before arriving at Broadneck this year, faced Arundel senior standout Tiffany Johnson -- and more than held her own. Malesich blocked six of Johnson's spikes and hammered away five of her own.
"It just amazes me how much she stepped up," Broadneck Coach Romonzo Beans said. "To have a freshman out there starting in a match this big, and for her to play like that? Well, that's a pretty big deal."
Broadneck's maturation has mirrored Malesich's: After sometimes looking confused at the beginning of the season, both turned dominant by year's end. The Bruins lost to Arundel three weeks ago in the county championship game. "Over those few weeks," Beans said, "we became a much better team."
"I didn't even think I'd get to be a part of all this," Malesich said. "But I'm getting so much better. All the time I feel myself improve."
Severn football coach John Beckman announced his retirement last week, but that doesn't necessarily mean his coaching career is over. After 10 seasons as head coach, Beckman said he may be content with a break, not an end.
"I could come back," said Beckman, who led Severn to a 54-43 record during his 10 seasons as head coach. "I'm not saying that this is it forever. I just want a little time right now for myself and my family."
Beckman said he will continue to teach physics at Severn, and might still work with the football team in a limited role.