As the sun set over Montgomery County, RM field hockey’s starters took the field; the whole season had been leading up to the next sixty minutes of play.
In their first home playoff game in years, the Richard Montgomery field hockey team faced the Wootton Patriots on November 2nd for a matchup that was highly anticipated. Wootton had demolished the Rockets 4-0 at their first meeting earlier during the regular season, but this time around, RM was confident in their ability to win.
“Having the opportunity to replay [Wootton] made me really excited,” senior captain Rosa Boehler said. “By the end of the first game, we’d already figured out their strategy, so when we played them again we knew what we were coming into.”
The week of practice between the end of the regular schedule and their first playoff game had been packed with running through plays and conditioning.
“There wasn’t anything new we would be able to learn in one week,” head coach Alie Brooks said. “We just wanted to make sure we were well-prepared.”
Even coming in as the underdogs, RM had seven skilled seniors up their sleeves, as well as a solid defense that would be more than able to hold strong against the several-time state champions.
Wootton began with possession and entered RM’s defensive zone almost immediately. Despite the speed and endurance the Rockets had, Wootton excelled in their stick skills and swiftly wove through the layers of the RM defense.
A foot foul that took place behind junior goalie May Kyaw gave Wootton the deadly opportunity for a penalty stroke. The Patriot player took her mark, and the crowd stilled. Wootton placed the ball at the top corner of the goal–Kyaw, however, kept her cool. She batted it away with ease, allowing for a jump-start in the team’s momentum.
Senior forward Ella Scarano took advantage of it, leading RM in a breakaway that forced a penalty corner. The corner gave captain Ryan Westpfahl the chance for a shot from just inside the circle that Scarano swept back into the goal, putting the Rockets up 1-0.
Wootton was visibly stunned as RM trotted back to their starting positions.
It only went downhill for the Rocket offense from there. The lead seemed to be slipping through their fingers as the Patriots continued to bear down on the Rocket defense, drawing a series of penalty corners to keep RM on their toes. Juniors Lily Merritt and Katie Spencer played key roles in stuffing Wootton’s every attempt.
Despite the defensive effort, a break in the Rocket midfield gave the Patriots a chance for an equalizer, and they took it wholeheartedly. All it took was three passes for Wootton to slide through the RM defense and send the ball to the back of the net.
The game quickly began heating up–frustration plagued each team as several fouls were missed by the referees. Another goal from the Patriots quickly followed just before the clock ran out to signal halftime.
“We had a lot to talk about,” Brooks said. “Wootton wasn’t any better than us and we were playing sloppy.”
Along with the technical aspect of the game, the captains emphasized the mindset the team needed to have.
“Something we always make sure to stress is how badly we want to win,” Boehler said. “Especially when we played top teams like [Walter Johnson, Winston Churchill, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, and Whitman], we want to come in playing our game.”
When the second half began, it was clear that Wootton had the same mentality. Both sides struggled to complete offensive plays and held firm defensively for the second half, neither allowing the other to score.
The final buzzer sounded and the Patriots fled the field. They left RM in the dust, broken-hearted. Tears were shed and words exchanged between friends as the Rockets gathered in for one last cheer, ending their season 7-6.
Wootton, 5-8-1, fell to the undefeated Churchill Bulldogs in the second round of playoffs one week later.
With 12 juniors on the varsity squad this season, RM field hockey will have a long roster of veterans for next year.
“The key in getting better is working hard in the offseason,” Merritt said. “We already have a lot of experienced players, so it’s important we set a good example for the younger girls.”
The seniors managed to achieve several of the goals they had set in the beginning of the year, such as beating longtime rival Walter Johnson in overtime, having a winning record, and, most importantly, having another fun season of field hockey.
“I’m sad we didn’t win,” senior Lizzie Kinnard said. “But it was nice ending the game and knowing we played our hardest.”
“Playing for RM field hockey has always been the highlight of my year,” added Boehler. “I reached some of my own personal goals this season and had an amazing time doing it with some of my best friends.”
Featured photo by Lifetouch