(Enlarge) Dulaney senior Sarah George scored five goals for the second straight game, leading the Lions to a 7-0 victory over Magruder on Wednesday night. The win advances them to the Class 4A state championship game against Westminster on Saturday. (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh)
Dulaney’s Sarah George was reluctant when she was first told to switch positions from midfield to attack.
After scoring five goals in each of her squad’s past two playoff games, the senior and her Lion teammates are quite comfortable with her up front.
Her latest 5-goal performance came Wednesday night at Franklin High in Dulaney’s 7-0 Class 4A state semifinal victory over Magruder (14-4).
The win propelled the Lions (12-5) to the state championship game against Westminster at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, at Washington College.
Senior Abby Sprinkel, who scored one of the other goals, along with Sydney Baker, recalled when the coaches moved George.
“She was our midfielder the first three years and there was a practice and she kept putting them in,” Sprinkel said.
She hasn’t stopped rattling the cage since, scoring 20 goals to lead the Lions.
Coach Kendra Whaley remembered when they once tried her on defense.
“She kept flubbing over her feet so we put her on attack and we could see the anger and desire in her face to go get those balls,” Whaley said. “At first she regretted going up to the front, but we said, ‘Sarah, you belong there, you belong there, and she’s like ‘okay, now I belong there.’”
She proved it on the first goal with 21:44 left in the first half, when she converted a long drive by Courtney Jantzen that was redirected by Casey Glinoweicki.
Jantzen had forced a turnover on the sidelines before the long pass.
“That first goal was beautiful,” George said. “That was so nice because it was just me and the goalie and I basically 1-touched it.”
Although the Dulaney defense of seniors Karen Smith and Torie Kennelly and junior McKenna Bolanda, and junior goalie Elizabeth Schaeffler (first half) and senior goalie Olivia Cawley (second half) was stifling, they did face some potential Magruder scoring opportunities.
The first was a hard shot by Colleen Harwood five minutes into the game that Schaeffler turned away with a tough kick save.
But Dulaney's speed and power hits were much more prevalent.
After George’s goal, Sprinkel added a penalty stroke goal two minutes later.
“We definitely worked on it (penalty strokes) in practice a lot,” Sprinkel said. “It’s really mental.”
Sprinkel said the whole team was prepared mentally, and two days of practice on the field turf at Roland Park County School prepared them for the faster game.
“Today, we came into the game prepared and ready and we wanted it so bad,” Sprinkel said. “Practicing at Roland Park, you could see our game start to pick up. Yesterday in practice we had connection after connection and it was amazing. We knew coming into today we had something good going.”
Coach Whaley saw the same chemistry in practice and in the 6-0 regional final victory over Chesapeake (Anne Arundel).
“The team definitely has talent and they have desire,” Whaley said. “We are finally making connections.”
Helping those connections are midfielders Kenzie Brown, Samantha Thibeault and Sprinkel, along with attackers Baker, Melissa Webster and Glinowiecki.
Webster assisted George for the Lions third goal in a span of 3:29, making it 3-0 with 18:15 left until intermission.
Alexandra Calder assisted Baker for the fourth goal of the half and George scored all three in the second half.
“They did finish well today,” Magruder coach Kathleen Mulholland said.
The finished product goes beyond the finishers.
“The girls mesh well together as a team and I think that’s one of the most important things,” Whaley said. “You could have a whole bunch of talent, but if they are not working well together, they are not going to go anywhere.”
The Lions are definitely going somewhere — to the state finals for the first time since they lost in the championship game in 1986.
It was the only time they have reached the title game, having played in the semifinals seven times, including last year.
“This was such an accomplishment and we knew we wanted to win and we did it,” Sprinkel said. “It’s just amazing.” Follow Craig Clary on Twitter