The Dulaney field hockey team has become one of the Baltimore area's most consistent programs in recent years. Throughout the past eight seasons, the Lions have won six Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association regional championships, including in each of the past two seasons.
Lions head coach Kellie Fialcowitz has been with the team for much of the run. She's in the fifth year of her second coaching stint at Dulaney, and the Lions have thrived under her tutelage, posting a 63-17 mark since she returned.
"We've been lucky to have great female athletes at Dulaney," Fialcowitz said. "A lot of my players are top lacrosse players who also happen to be great field hockey players. So, we've been blessed with a lot of solid female athletes, and I've definitely noticed an increase in recent years."
This year's group is in the same mold as other Dulaney teams in recent seasons. The team flows well together and utilizes its speed to beat opponents on offense as well as recover on defense.
As good as this year's group has been, the team's season started in uncharacteristic fashion. Dulaney came out flat against C. Milton Wright in its season opener and couldn't recover, dropping the contest, 4-2.
"We were really frantic in that game," Dulaney junior forward Zoe Hermann said. "I think we were just anxious to get our season started. We were also playing at Johns Hopkins, so it was a big opportunity. That contributed to our lack of success in that game."
The Lions appear to have gotten all their jitters out in their opener. Dulaney hasn't dropped a game since, reeling off 12 straight victories.
The team is playing especially well on defense. In its past six games, Dulaney has recorded four shutouts, including two against main rival Towson, as well as one against a tough opponent in Westminster. Dulaney only conceded one goal in each of the other two contests, and both of those were against Hereford, which has won three straight MPSSAA 2A state titles.
Thanks to their midfield, the Lions have been able to maintain possession for big stretches of time, meaning the defense is not constantly under pressure. Defender Lydia Naughton has also been strong, with Fialcowitz crediting her defensive spacing for maintaining a couple of Dulaney's shutouts with goal-line clearances.
The unit is also getting accustomed to no longer having senior Grace Jung playing alongside it.
"Last year, Grace was first-team All-County playing defense," Fialcowitz said. "We've shifted her further up the field this season to our midfield. The defense had to adjust to Grace being in front of them rather than next to them, which took a little time. They work really well together. As a group they aren't the biggest, but they're absolutely fearless."
The move has helped Dulaney as a whole, as Jung has adjusted well. Fialcowitz said she hasn't had another player during her time at Dulaney control the midfield like Jung can, with her poised and calming presence constantly helping her teammates step up their individual games.
On attack, the Lions have relied on senior forward Maggie Kelly, who has scored 14 times this year. That includes three goals in one of the wins against Hereford.
"Everyone on the team just reads each other very well," Jung said. "We've played together for years, lots of high school varsity experience. Having 11 seniors definitely helps, and our underclassmen have continued to evolve."
With the whole group firing on all cylinders, there's no reason to think Dulaney can't repeat its postseason success. In fact, the group has come to expect it.
When Fialcowitz first came back to the program, she found that her players thought reaching a regional final was a solid season. Fast forward a few years, and this group's mindset has shifted toward a bigger goal -- winning the first MPSSAA field hockey state title in Dulaney's history.
"Our group knows they're capable of getting to a state semi," Fialcowitz said. "We lost one in overtime during this stretch, we lost a close one last year that had some tough calls, too. The players know they're in it and are capable. They believe in themselves, and I think it's taken the last four or five years to get to a point where they think they're worthy of playing in that environment. Now that they know it; the level of intensity and desire to get past that point has elevated."
Casey O'Grady celebrates with
Sidney Snyder (no. 2) and Reece Spann (No. 18) (
John Bowers/Courtesy Photo)