sparrows point girls win first regional hockey crown
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 13:31

Sparrows Point field hockey coach Ashley Fishel-Shaffer leads the Pointers in a cheer after they defeated Carver A&T 6-1 in the Class 1A South regional championship game. photo by Bill Gates

State semis loss doesn’t tarnish season’s bloom

by Bill Gates

The ending was a bit abrupt and could have gone better, but as has been said, it’s not so much about the destination as it is the journey.
    And the Sparrows Point field hockey team enjoyed one heck of a ride.
    The best season in Pointer history ended with a 2-0 loss to Crisfield in the Class 1A state semifinals on Monday at Broadneck High.
    But the loss in no way diminishes what the Pointers accomplished on the way: an 11-1 regular season, the best mark in school history; a second consecutive Baltimore County Division II title; beating Loch Raven for the first time; and winning the program’s first regional title.
    It was not only the first field hockey regional title for Sparrows Point, but only the second ever for a Dundalk-Edgemere school.
    For the only other regional title by a local school, you have to go back to 1978 when Patapsco reached the state finals.
    “This squad has been a team of firsts,” Sparrows Point coach Ashley Fishel-Shaffer said. “Since the start of the season, our goal was to win regionals.
    “Step-by-step, we got to that game. The girls wanted it, and they performed.”
    Sparrows Point blitzed through the regular season, their only loss coming to a much larger school, Class 3A power and eventual Baltimore County champion Hereford.
    Take away the 3-0 loss to Hereford, and the Pointers won their 11 regular-season games by a combined score of 80-2.
    But it all meant nothing if Sparrows Point couldn’t get past playoff nemesis Loch Raven.
    The Raiders had knocked the host Pointers out of the playoffs the previous two seasons by 1-0 scores.
    On Halloween night at CCBC Dundalk, the Pointers finally took down their postseason demon, 2-0.
    Ashely Struble poked the ball into the Raider cage off an assist from Mackenzie Alchin midway through the first half to finally get the Pointers on the scoreboard against Loch Raven.
    “I didn’t really believe it, at first,” Struble said of her goal.
    “It really pumped us up,” Alchin said. “It motivated us to keep scoring.”
    “As [coach Fishel-Shaffer] tells us, ‘score the first goal, break their hearts,’” Struble said.
    Brittani LaFollette scored a goal with a rifle shot from in front of the cage to give the Pointers a 2-0 halftime lead.
    Sparrows Point’s defense made sure it stood up, making Loch Raven the Pointers’ 10th shutout victim of the season.
    “The defense really held us in the game and handed the ball to the offense to finish what we planned to do, and that was beat Loch Raven,” LaFollette said. “I’ve wanted to beat Loch Raven so bad, ever since my sophomore year.”
    The Pointers’ 6-1 victory over Carver A&T in the Class 1A South regional title game on Thursday at CCBC Dundalk was almost anticlimatic.
    Sparrows Point had beaten the Wildcats 6-0 during the regular season.
    “We didn’t go out there cocky,” Alchin said.
    “It was a new game, and we were playing on turf this time, not grass,” Struble said. “Carver usually plays on turf.”
    LaFollette scored on the Pointers’ first foray into Wildcat territory minutes into the game.
    She would finish with four goals. Struble and Alchin scored the other two goals.
    In the state semifinals against Crisfield, the Pointers faced a 14-1 team that came out of the extremely tough East Region.
    The Crabbers scored two first-half goals and made them stand up.
    “They were really good, with beautiful stick skills,” LaFollette said. “Everything they did, they did gracefully.”
    “They moved the ball so well, with short little bursts,” Fishel-Shaffer said. “We haven’t played teams that do that.”
    The score could have been much more lopsided if not for the efforts of the Pointer defense and goalie Fran Hearn.
    Under almost constant pressure from the skilled Crabbers, they shut out Crisfield in the second half.
    “Our tricks [on offense] weren’t working,” Fishel-Shaffer said. “But I’m glad our players fought hard. They redeemed themselves in the last 30 minutes.”
    After the game, the Pointers held their usual post-game meeting to hand out individual awards for the game and Fishel-Shaffer addressed the Sparrows Point parents and fans who made the trip to Broadneck.
    “So we ended up 13-2. We ended up division champs, and we ended up regional champs. This was the best season in Sparrows Point history, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. This is a season you’ll never forget.”