Hopes dashed: Late disadvantage costs Knights as Mavericks rally to title in 2A girls lacrosse final
May 25—OWINGS MILLS — Middletown looked like it was about to make history by becoming the first Frederick County girls lacrosse team to win a state title.
The Knights led Manchester Valley, a team that beat them thoroughly during the regular season, by three goals early in the second half of Thursday's state championship game, continuing to control the game as they had throughout most of the first half.
But Middletown's state title hopes suddenly vanished.
In a span of 27 seconds during the fifth minute of the second half, the Knights received their fourth and fifth yellow cards of the game. This meant they'd have to play the final 20-plus minutes two players down.
This disadvantage proved to be too much, even for a resilient team like Middletown. After getting the two-player advantage, Manchester Valley scored 11 unanswered goals to beat the Knights 15-7 in the Class 2A state final at Stevenson University.
"The cards, that's unfortunate. I'll just say that," said Middletown coach Tyler White, whose beard was dyed orange to keep a promise he made to his team if they got this far in the playoffs. "We came out, we were on it — unfortunate, that's all I have to say about that."
As Middletown players came off the field at halftime, they were greeted by a slew of elated teammates. Middletown led 6-4 after bouncing back thoroughly from a 2-0 deficit to an unbeaten Manchester Valley team that had defeated them 15-4 in March.
Middletown's defense was getting clutch saves from goalie Helen Bartman and doing a solid job of containing Manchester Valley's top gun, sophomore Emma Penczek.
Meanwhile, the Knights' offensive ace, Navy-bound senior Ellery Bowman, was continuing to pile up goals. Her fourth goal of the game gave Middletown a 7-4 lead with 22:22 left in the second half.
But less than two minutes later, the Knights found themselves having to battle a powerhouse team despite being two players down.
After getting their fourth and fifth yellow cards at the 20:55 and 20:28 marks, respectively, the Knights never scored again.
On the other end of the field, Penczek scored seven of her game-high nine goals — which tied the record for most goals in a state final — to help the Mavericks surge ahead.
"We tried our best, but ultimately, there's not a lot you can do when you're two men down," Bowman said. "We had to put in a new defense on the spot.
"It's a whole different thing. When you're on offense, you're getting triple-teamed," she said. "It's one thing to be double-teamed, but triple-teamed, you're basically shut down."
But as she and Bartman pointed out, the Knights were doing just what they hoped to do when playing at even strength.
"We won the first half, and that felt good," said Bartman, who praised her defenders as well as the rest of the team. "I'm proud of how we did that."