Holly Grove 4 — SSPP 2

EASTON — Debbie McQuaid was happy.

Obviously she would have preferred a different outcome, but Saints Peter and Paul High’s head field hockey coach is very much a realist.

“We are very young,” McQuaid said. “We have two seniors, five freshmen, four of them start. And two new goalies.”

That youthful combination had Sts. Peter & Paul in the lead after three quarters Friday afternoon before Holly Grove struck for three fourth-period goals en route to a 4-2 victory in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference championship.

“Good to have field hockey,” McQuaid said after the first athletic competition either school has had since the COVID-19 pandemic forced all interscholastic sports to be shut down in Maryland last March.

And McQuaid saw plenty of good things.

The Sabres trailed 1-0 at half, but rallied to take a 2-1 lead entering the final 15-minute period. Goalies Maddie Brice and Victoria Lafferty combined for 14 saves, with freshman Lafferty making three stops within a chaotic 15-second span in the third period during a Holly Grove penalty corner that helped the Sabres maintain their one-goal lead. And all five freshmen played, with Webb seemingly all over the field, and Emmary Sweeney netting the goal that pulled the Sabres even at 1-1 with 4 minutes, 18 seconds elapsed in the third quarter.

“Happy with how they played,” McQuaid said. “Hoping for overtime, but they (Holly Grove) play that big-hit, long-ball. And they’re a good team. They’re well-coached and having some good skills.”

After a scoreless first period, Marissa Landon gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead, converting a crossing pass from Jenna Laird with just over 2 minutes remaining before halftime.

Sweeney knocked in the equalizer less than five minutes into the second half. Senior Joy Perry then nudged the Sabres in front with 3:10 left in the third quarter with a shot that deflected off an Eagle defender’s stick.

But the defending ESIAC champions finished strong.

Just 1:23 into the fourth quarter, Landon squeezed a rebound past Brice to forge a 2-2 tie. It remained knotted at 2-all until Tori Travers converted a penalty stroke into the right side of the cage with 3:19 remaining for a 3-2 Holly Grove lead.The Eagles added an insurance goal with 50 seconds left, when Kayla Willing scored off a scramble in front of the cage.

“I told them at the break if they could come in and score a goal in the first two minutes of the last quarter the momentum would shift,” Holly Grove head coach Amanda Lankford said of her team. “And usually they carry the momentum pretty well. My teams have always been second-half teams.”

The Sabres pushed into Eagles territory once more but couldn’t get another shot past Holly Grove goalie Abby Webster.

“I’m not disappointed,” McQuaid said. “There’s a lot of little things we need to work on defensively. They weren’t holding their space and marking the person and all that. It’s things we’ve got to work on, and now that we’ve had a game the kids on the sideline can see and visualize. But I’m happy.”

Follow me on Twitter @Bill_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@stardem.com

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