CLARKSBURG – Sometimes, all it takes is one point.
In a playoff game, that one point can be the difference between the end of a season and a team moving on to the next round.
When Clarksburg High School and Northwest High School’s field hockey teams met at Coyote Canyon on Oct. 28 in the 4A West Region I Semifinals, one point was all it took for the Coyotes to push past the Jaguars and earn their spot in the regional finals game against Quince Orchard.
Clarksburg and Northwest entered the game as the number two and three seed, respectively; the higher seeding afforded both teams a first-round bye week.
That extra rest contributed to a tremendous defensive display that resulted in Clarksburg shutting out Northwest, 1-0. The lone goal came courtesy of freshman forward Sydney Allen at the 26th minute in the first half.
“I thought we would score a couple more, but it was an intense game. It was just back and forth, back and forth,” said Allen. “I think we wanted it more than they did.”
The two teams met previously in the regular season with a similar outcome. The Coyotes registered two goals early on, and then spent the rest of the game keeping Northwest at bay for the 2-0 victory.
These close games can perhaps be attributed to the thread that ties the Jaguars and the Coyotes together: after all, first-year Northwest Head Coach Delaney Tenca played varsity field hockey for three years at Clarksburg under current Coyotes Head Coach Sissy Natoli. Tenca served as a captain for her entire varsity career.
“When I walked in here, it was just one of those things where I looked at her and I said ‘this would happen.’ My first year as a varsity coach and I said, ‘I would see you at a playoff game,’” said Tenca. “Honestly, everything that I’ve learned, I’ve taught my girls. To say that we lost 1-0, I think we played a great game.”
“(Tenca’s) competitive spirit – it was only a matter of time until she transferred it to the players. It’s just what we do,” said Natoli. “I knew it was going to be quite different this time we played them as opposed to the first time. They got better, we got better. This was a great game, it could have gone either way. I applaud the efforts of both teams because this was hockey at its best.”
After Allen’s goal, it appeared as though the tide could turn at any moment for either squad. Clarksburg junior forward Kyra Bencal was all over the field, passing to teammate Abby Marshall or trying to steal the ball away from Northwest midfielder Shayna Allentoff.
Allentoff eventually succeeded in regaining possession for the Jaguars, but the net was well-guarded and the Coyotes did not allow an open shot.
Northwest reconvened during halftime and entered the second half with renewed energy.
However, opportunities that materialized in the circle failed to generate points for the Jaguars. Senior midfielder Mikaela Chin attempted a goal from the left side, but Clarksburg goalie Abbie Zuravsky blocked the ball.
“I think our hardest thing is executing. When we did get the ball down into the circle, we had a lot of chances to score, but we just couldn’t get it in,” said Tenca. “I honestly think that if we had gotten it in, it would have changed the momentum of the game.”
Every time the Jaguars threatened to score, a Clarksburg player was there to reclaim possession for the Coyotes. Clarksburg senior Jazmine Porter ended Northwest’s momentum on two different occasions as time continued to tick off the clock in the second half.
“There was a lot of play in the middle of the field, a lot of transition by both teams, and that’s what you want at this time of the year,” said Natoli. “You want it to be fast and exciting, and it was.”
The Coyotes will have to prepare to face No. 1 Quince Orchard Cougars in the 4A West Region I Final on Oct. 30. The Cougars also enjoyed a first-round bye week and orchestrated a shutout of their own when they beat Gaithersburg High School by a final score of 8-0 on Oct. 28.