For most of the first half during Thursday’s pivotal Independent School League field hockey matchup between No. 6 St. Stephens/St. Agnes and No. 8 Bullis, Idrienne Walker was shadowed by at least two defenders, leaving the Bulldogs’ top player in a futile search for daylight.
With less than five minutes left in the half, though, Walker had seen enough. Following a Saints’ foul, the Bullis senior slammed down the ball in its midfield spot, charged ahead and weaved through a scrum of Saints’ defenders before scoring from just inside the circle.
Walker’s goal proved to be all the motivation and offense that the Bulldogs needed in their 1-0 victory in Potomac, marking their second straight triumph against the defending ISL champs.
“I had just looked up at the scoreboard and told myself ‘There’s no way we can lose,’ ” Walker said. “I realized I was playing too defensive, so with the way things were moving on the field, I found if I just took the spot, I could make something happen.”
With her team ahead and the Saints (10-4, 5-1) sure to make a second-half surge, Bulldogs Coach Julie Delinsky decided to pull Walker back on defense. This allowed Bullis (10-0, 7-0) to better control possession while adding a capable defender to help hold off the Saints’ attack.
A short window of opportunity opened for the Saints when Walker was sidelined by a yellow card with four minutes remaining. But her Bulldog teammates buckled down and maintained control of possession to secure the win.
“It was grueling to watch those last moments from the sideline,” Walker said. “This year’s win was more satisfying because we didn’t let up in the second half and you could see our intensity until the end.”
As was the case last year when Bullis beat the Saints for the first time in program history, the Bulldogs poured onto the field for a jubilant postgame celebration. But the excitement soon gave way to focus, as Bullis hopes to avoid the late-season collapse that followed last year’s pivotal victory.
“Last year, we beat St. Stephens early in the year and it kind of put pressure on us where people said, ‘Well, if they beat St. Stephens, then they can beat anybody,’ ” Delinsky said. “So this year, we’ve made it our season goal to just win the next game, and if we do that, we will get that ISL banner we want.”