At the end of the Maryland 3A Field Hockey State Championship on Saturday, Chesapeake's Rachel Fleig took his team-mate Mason Frechtel for a hug.
The two-time state champion Cougars had just lost 3-0 against the Mustangs C. Milton Wright at Washington College in Chestertown. Even so, as Fleig kissed Frechtel with tears in her eyes, the elder smiled broadly and even chuckled as she said to her classmate, "It's good, really.
"It's hard for seniors because we're leaving each other," Fleig said. "But I keep telling them: everything is fine. As a unit, I think we did everything we wanted to do.
"I am so grateful to have come so far with this team. In the end, I would not want to be elsewhere. "
No. 10, Chesapeake (12-7) jumped ahead to start the game, but failed to get shot.
C. Milton Wright (17-1) responded with his own offensive push. Chesapeake goalkeeper Eve Vickery shot a shot, but lead striker Samantha Aljets picked up the rebound and sent the ball back to Vickery. Vickery was lying on the ground to block this shot. Aljets picked up the rebound and hit the back of the net to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead three minutes into the match.
From this moment, the Mustangs set up their camp in the defensive zone of the Cougars. Four minutes after the first goal, Aljets removed Vickery from the goal line and then went on to junior striker Arrianna May, who was waiting for him at the right post. May gave the ball a 2-0 lead with 23:18 to go in the first half.
Despite everything, although the Cougar were led by two goals at half-time, they remained optimistic. In a regional championship against Mount Hebron, they had been 1-0 at half-time but had scored two goals in 30 seconds midway through the second half for a 2-1 victory. So against Milton Wright, the Pumas still thought they could rally.
Yet, while the Cougars reversed the trend in terms of possession, they could never break through.
"We kept trying to push further and further and we just could not produce one," said Joan Johnson, coach of Chesapeake.
While the Pumas continued to bet on their luck, they made themselves vulnerable to a breakaway and May took advantage. She grabbed the ball and jumped across a clear stretch of field, then sent a shot over Vickery to allow the Mustangs to go up 3-0 with 7:57 to go.
"We could not finish," Fleig said. "I think the nerves are coming to us. None of us communicated. But I'm proud of my team. I would not want to play with someone else. "