Two years ago, the Springbrook field hockey team gathered at Dominic's Pizza in Silver Spring to celebrate the school's first state title -- a feat made even more impressive considering the Blue Devils had rarely challenged the county's top teams in previous seasons.
Last Thursday night, the team was back at the pizza joint, this time feting its 4A South Region championship victory over Magruder, another trip to the state tournament and proof that the Blue Devils' previous championship run was no fluke.
"That first experience [in the state tournament] was brand new and exciting and we had no idea what to expect," Springbrook Coach Kearney Francis said. "It was magical."
This time the Blue Devils have a much better idea of what to expect -- as do their opponents.
Springbrook took a 13-2 record into its game against C.M. Wright in a 4A semifinal last night at South River High School. County rival Churchill met South River on Monday in the other semifinal (both games ended too late to be included in this edition).
Springbrook's path back to the state tournament this fall has been anything but easy. In a region semifinal victory over Whitman, Springbrook fell behind by three goals before winning, 4-3, in overtime on a goal by Larissa Rodney.
The win over Magruder proved equally dramatic. The Blue Devils jumped out early on a goal by Leah Arthur -- the only remaining starter from the 2003 team. After Magruder evened the score, Springbrook's Lauren Kessler netted the game-winner in overtime.
The bulk of this year's Springbrook squad either watched from the bench or were members of the school's junior varsity team in 2003. Those players hope to leave their own legacy, Francis said.
"They are determined to make their own mark," said Francis, in her fifth year at Springbrook. "They want to do it on their own. I think that conviction has fueled a lot of their desire.
"This squad is such a different team. [Two years ago] there were a few kids who were absolute standouts and you knew who they were. With this team, the scoring is very evenly distributed and the defense works very well as a unit. There aren't any of the superstars, just a lot of workhorses who play well together."