Saline’s field hockey team collected two trophies in the state championship game at Dexter Saturday. But the defending state champion River Rats from Huron went home with the one they wanted.
Allison Sabb scored after a controversial penalty corner midway through the second half. It stood as the game’s only goal.
Saline was awarded the trophy as Division 1 regular season champion and state tournament runner ups.
It was a difficult loss the Hornets and a few tears were shed. But the team appeared to listen coach Erica Reilly’s post-came instructions. The held their heads high as they accepted the runner-up trophy.
“I told them I really didn’t want to see any tears because it’s been that great of a season. I get it, though. A 1-0 loss is a tough pill to swallow,” Reilly said. “I told them to hold their heads high. We gave a round of applause to our seniors. It’s been an honor coaching them.”
Reilly said the team should be proud of its accomplishments.
“It was a magical season. They are such amazing kids. Every one of them have great grit,” Reilly said.
The Hornets knew their opponents were a fast, skilled squad. And the River Rats came out determined to score first.
“They just came out guns-a-blazing and locked us in our defensive 25 and we were having a struggle getting the ball out,” Reilly said.
Senior Devin Reilly, in particular, played great defense to keep the River Rats at bay.
Toward the end of the first half, Saline started to level the field. And in the second half, the game was more evenly played. Still, the River Rats seemed to get better opportunities from their possession.
“In the second half we came in with a bit of a different game plan. I think it worked. The tide turned a little bit. When they got the corner it was a tough call,” Reilly said.
The River Rats were pressing and Hornet goalie Julia Bentley kicked the ball up and away. It was played by defender Shae Murphy, who raised the stick over her head to bring the ball down. Playing a ball with a high stick isn’t against the rules. It was done several times throughout the game without incident. But when Murphy did, the ref blew the whistle and called a penalty corner. The players on the field protested the call.
“They called it a dangerous play. I saw it a little bit differently and talked to the refs about it, but ultimately it was their decision,” said Reilly, diplomatically.
Huron was awarded the corner and, after a scramble and several stops by Bentley and the Saline defense, Allison Sabb knocked in the loose ball from the side of the goal.
And judging by the River Rats’ celebration, they knew the importance of the goal.
The River Rats went right back to the attack and were awarded another penalty corner. Bentley made the stop and the Hornets cleared the ball to safety.
Saline generated several quality rushes in the final 15 minutes. One of Saline’s best chances came on a cross from Bridget Skelly then went through the circle but just beyond a Saline stick. A couple of other chances resulted in shots wide of the goal.
Time expired and the Hornets were unable to score the equalizer.
Saline’s Field Hockey team has its share of Division 1-bound players like the Devin and Erin Reilly and Hannah Jarvie. But they’re joined by players who’ve just come out to play because they enjoy the game. And these players were an integral part of the squad.
“The cool thing about our team is that we have a handful of club players who play all year around. And we’ve got a gymnast. We’ve got a band member. This collection of kids came together and accomplished something more than any other Saline team in Division 1 has ever done by winning the regular season,” Reilly said. “We were certainly hoping to beat the defending state champs from last year. And they’re darned good team. They’re so strong.”
It was the final game for seniors Devin Reilly, Hannah Jarvie, Julia Bentley, Fiona Morcom, Caroline Krause, Eva Doorlag, Ashlyn Murphey and Emily Maloney.
Devin Reilly and Hannah Jarvie, who played for the Hornet team that won the Division 2 state championship three years ago, will play together next year at Michigan State University.