CHESTERTOWN, Md. — As her team huddled at halftime of the Maryland 4A field hockey final at Washington College in Chestertown on Saturday, Severna Park junior midfielder Marissa Balleza knew she needed to step up.
The Falcons’ leading scorer had set up the team’s first goal to give Severna Park a one-goal halftime lead over Bethesda-Chevy Chase, but the game was still a lot closer than Balleza thought it should have been.
“We had a talk about how everybody needed to give it their all,” Balleza said. “It was going to be the last 30 minutes of the season, and we knew we’d never have this same team again.”
Balleza came out and scored 19 seconds into the second half, and the Falcons (17-2) went on to beat Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 3-1, to earn the state-record 20th state championship in program history.
There have been persistent rumors among area field hockey insiders that Severna Park Coach Lil Shelton, who founded the program and has won 546 career games in her 37 seasons, would be stepping down after the tournament, but Shelton wouldn’t confirm that Saturday even after her players said they wanted to win the 20th title for her.
“I don’t know yet. We’ll see,” Shelton said. “How can you leave this great group of kids?”
Sophomore defender Maeve Doherty and junior forward Samantha Slattery also scored Saturday for Severna Park, who has now won six championships in seven years after snapping a streak of five straight titles last year.
Doherty’s goal came after a corner when Balleza passed to her at the top of the circle with 3 minutes 16 seconds left in the first half, and Slattery’s goal made it 3-0 with 18:17 remaining after a shot by senior defender Taylor Dalisera hit traffic in front of the net and Slattery knocked it in.
Senior forward Amy Barrett scored for Bethesda-Chevy Chase (14-5) with 16:44 left, but the Barons never really threatened after that.
“You can’t give a team as talented as Severna Park all those chances,” Bethesda-Chevy Chase Coach Amy Wood said. “We didn’t bring it with what is between our ears until maybe it was too late.”