SILVER SPRING – A five-minute onslaught by Blake High School’s field hockey team could not put the ball in the back of the net as the clock wound down, crowning the Rockville High School girls as the Class 3A-West region division two regular season title winners in field hockey with a 1-0 win on Oct. 1.
“All of our games have been really close, one-goal games, two-goal games against some really strong teams,” said Rockville Head Coach Ray Trail.
This may have been modesty on Trail’s part, since the only other team to hold Rockville to under two goals was Magruder on Sept. 14. Quince Orchard is, so far, the only team to have beaten Rockville and the only team to hold them scoreless with their win on Sept. 12.
With the win against Blake, Rockville improves to an 8-1 league record, second only to an undefeated Churchill squad.
The win also ends a streak of losses against Blake (6-4): Rockville has not beaten Blake since 2015. Since then, Rockville has also suffered two consecutive early-playoff exits by Blake as well, in 2017 and 2018.
Ultimately, the title means that Rockville, as the higher seed, will have a home field advantage in the regional playoffs. But since all teams make the playoffs, the location where the games are played is moot, if the on-field product overcomes the unfamiliarity of new grounds.
“This game doesn’t decide who we are; it just decides what field we play on for playoffs. It’s not that big of a deal,” said Blake midfielder Anna Eaton.
However, this matchup was a contest to see if Blake could come back and score after Rockville’s first and only goal. The Bengals fired shots while Rockville continued to pursue a second point and parked the bus on defense. The onus of maintaining their lead fell on Rockville’s defense, and the well-protected hands and shins of goalie Ashlyn Casp.
“It was really stressful, especially because in a lot of the games the defense does a good job of keeping it (the ball) away from me. So, I usually see a couple shots per game, so there was a lot more pressure this game,” said Casp.
Casp and her defense have allowed only three goals in nine games so far this season, so she had reason to be worried when Blake’s shots started getting too close for comfort. Foul trouble killed promising plays and disrupted the momentum, forcing the players to balance playing conservatively to keep the pace of the game and playing physically to gain the upper edge.
The lone goal of the game came with a little over 12 minutes remaining in the first half, as forward Emily Tran shot one past Blake goalie Lia Tejada.
“It was really special today to win and play against them because, since I’ve been playing my freshman year, we haven’t beaten Blake in a really long time,” said Tran.
Tran’s goal did not secure the victory for Rockville yet, as there was over 40 minutes of game time left. Multiple shots did not go in for Blake in the first half, and, to make things worse, Eaton was injured with under two minutes left after a ball hit her face.
The second half started strong for Rockville, as they mostly kept possession for the first 10 minutes in Blake’s half, although the scrappy Blake defense did not let up and allow another goal. The physicality came to a head 12 minutes in when Rockville midfielder Kate Holland earned a green card and a two-minute suspension for rough play.
Foul trouble started to turn to Blake’s favor in the second half, giving them a prime scoring opportunity in the middle of the field as well as set pieces from corners. Unable to find an opening, Blake mostly kept taking corners until they finally turned it over.
In the last five minutes, the Bengals sought to score at any cost and kept possession while minimizing turnovers. A far cry from the game play they have shown until this point, it forced Rockville to go on the defensive and stop a tie at all costs. While successful in stopping shots from going in, the close shots broke them down after a while and allowed Blake to try to capitalize on defensive gaps.
“The regular season, we use every game to get stronger and work on things; whether you win or lose you want to keep on learning,” said Blake Head Coach Patrick Howley.