-- Middletown sweeper Danielle De Pierro and her defensive teammates were nearly perfect in Saturday night's Maryland 2A state final against Eastern Tech at UMBC, holding the Mavericks to a single shot on goal for the game. Unfortunately for the Knights, one shot was all Eastern Tech needed.
With both defenses controlling play, Mavericks forward Courtney Kobal made a darting near-post run in the 65th minute and flicked forward Rachel Tragesar's bounding cross over Middletown goalie Rachelle Buhrman's head, giving the Mavericks the 1-0 win and their first state championship.
"Defensively we were doing a really good job of stopping their offensive flow," said third-year Middletown coach Heather Kline. "They just got in on a really nice flow, and it was a great game, but it's hard to be on the losing end of it."
After a lackluster first half by both teams, the Knights (10-8-1) began asserting themselves in the opening minutes of the second half, and pressure from midfielder Meagan Sheffler helped give Middletown a pair of corners in the 43rd minute. But the Eastern Tech (11-2-1) defense, led by sophomore sweeper Macee Wray, kept the ball from the Mavericks' net.
"Their defense really hung back, and every time we tried to get in, one or two players were there," Kline said about the Mavericks' defense, which limited the Knights to six shots for the game.
Before beginning their playoff run, the Knights' season hardly had been what they expected after winning their fourth state title in 2004. Middletown finished the regular season with a 6-7-1 record, but it improved its play in the postseason and advanced to the state final with a 1-0 win over Parkside.
The Knights continued their strong play against Eastern Tech, denying the physical Mavericks the time and space they needed to operate.
"We seem to step up in the playoffs when it counts," said De Pierro. "But they were a big team, and if the ball was in the air, they would get it most of the time. We had to step up and not back down from the challenges they set for us."