Only 2 1/2 minutes had passed in Friday afternoon’s field hockey game with the visiting Northern Patriots, and already Huntingtown found itself in a position it had not yet experienced this season — behind.
When Northern’s Kaleigh Mulligan scored early in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division game, it marked the first goal the Hurricanes had surrendered this year and thus, the first time they had trailed this regular season. But after talking things over during a timeout, Huntingtown rebounded to score four straight goals in what ended as a 4-2 victory over its county rivals.
“They hung their heads for a second,” Huntingtown head coach Shannon Persetic said of her team. “We called a timeout and told them, ‘There’s nothing hurt. Get out there and play your game.’ You saw the response. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Emma Pike knotted the score for Huntingtown (10-0, 4-0 SMAC Chesapeake after a 5-2 win over St. Mary’s Ryken on Monday night) closing in on the midpoint of the opening half, while Alexa Zeruto scored with roughly nine minutes remaining to put the hosts in front to stay. Both added a goal in the second half, as well, to increase the Hurricanes’ lead to 4-1 before Natalie Williams deflected in a second goal for the Patriots with just over two minutes remaining.
“We started off a little bit nervous, I think, and they came out strong,” Alexa Zeruto said. “We let up one goal at first, but we came back strong and intense. We really picked it up and put four on them.”
“After the first goal, we really came out stronger after the timeout,” added Kenley Zeruto, who had an assist in the game. “We really pulled ourselves together. After we scored the first goal we kept putting them on.”
The game was far from just another date on the schedule for Huntingtown, as it was against a county rival that was also still unbeaten and had strung together some impressive wins leading into Friday afternoon’s meeting.
“We were all anxious for this game,” said Huntingtown’s Ariana Smith. “One, it’s Northern and they’re our rival. But both teams being undefeated it was tougher because we knew one would come out with their first loss of the season. Not a lot of pressure, but we were definitely working harder. We didn’t want to be the ones to come up short. ... We started to hold ourselves accountable for what had happened. We put it upon ourselves to play the game we love to play and know how to play.”
Northern (8-1, 4-1) started and finished well, but was unable to match the Hurricanes in between. Not too far removed from a huge victory over Patuxent on Sept. 25, the Patriots were unable to maintain their intensity at Huntingtown.
“I definitely think we could have come in with a stronger mindset and been more aggressive to the ball,” said Northern’s Sara Fields, “and just gone through with passes and gone to where we were going and going to the goal more. I just think this wasn’t the team that beat Pax and we need to bring that team to our next game.”
“We started out strong. I think after they came down on us we were kind of feeling low,” added Annie Galarza. “We just need to be stronger and this definitely isn’t what we’ve been seeing the last week or last month.”
It was a disappointing afternoon for Northern, but one Patriots head coach CoraJo Tozzolo hoped her team would ultimately benefit from. Northern is next scheduled to play at Lackey at 4 p.m. Thursday before finishing the regular season at Chopticon on Tuesday.
“This was our first loss of the season and you never like to have a loss, but every game you learn from,” Tozzolo said. “There are things we need to adjust after this, definitely, but we can come back from this, which is a good thing. I know the girls are resilient and can execute next time what we want to execute. For this game, in particular, Huntingtown has a great program, we have a great program. It was a good game, just went in the opposite direction of what we’d like.
“We’ll go back to work. We have two more games for the regular season and we’ll see what happens from there. I’m proud of my girls. They worked hard, but there are definitely things we need to improve on.”
Huntingtown and Northern compete in the same Class 3A South Region in the postseason and typically have seen each a second time in the playoffs. But before the postseason, the Hurricanes are scheduled to host Leonardtown at 4 p.m. Friday before closing the regular season with a visit from Patuxent on Tuesday.
“Those are all going to be tough teams, as well,” Alexa Zeruto said., “so we have to keep on with what we’re doing.”