PERRYVILLE — Perryville’s start to Wednesday’s state quarterfinal was not an ideal way to kickoff the state tournament for the Panthers against sixth-seeded Pikesville.
Through the first quarter and a half of play the Panthers of Pikesville rattled off six goals, including five unanswered scores to hold a 6-1 advantage over Perryville with under six minutes to play. By the end of the half, Perryville cut Pikesville’s lead down to two goals.
The Perryville team that stepped foot on the field for the final 24 minutes of play, however, looked like an almost entirely different unit than the one that begin the game earlier in the evening.
Perryville’s offense began firing on all cylinders with six different goal scorers notching at least one goal in the second half. The opportunistic offense allowed Perryville to overtake Pikesville with an 18-8 victory and clinch a spot in the state’s final four.
“We came out with bad energy and thought this team was going to give us less of a fight in the first quarter and we were kind of startled,” Senior defenseman Kurt Vaughn said. “In that first quarter we kind of started to panic a little bit, we weren’t really focused, it got in our heads a little bit.”
Perryville was able to easy the tension with a fast start to the third quarter, scoring five unanswered goals from Michael Young and Vinnie Muscella to turn a two-goal deficit into a three-goal lead.
The Perryville offense added nine more goals in the fourth quarter, outscoring Pikesville by a margin of eight goals in the final 12 minutes. Muscella finished the day with six goals and three assists. Young added four goals for the Panthers and Luke Roberts found the back of the cage twice.
“When we start slow we make it a game and when we start fast we are genuinely an unbeatable team in my opinion,” Muscella said. “A slow start made it close and once we picked up the energy they couldn’t stop us. It is what do, we need to have a fast start.”
After allowing six first half goals, the Panthers defense allowed just two Pikesville scores in the second half. Vaughn felt communication between long poles on the back side allowed Perryville to keep Pikesville’s offense to a minimum.
“We’re just talking about our slides and it’s always really loud, you can hear it when we are playing. That is how you know we are having a good game,” Vaughn said. “We saw what our offense was doing on the other side of the field and we thought they are having such a good game, we owe them a good game defensively.”
The victory marks the second straight season Perryville earned a spot in the state semifinals. The Panthers will travel across the Susquehanna to Bel Air High School on Friday to face The Academy for College and Career Exploration.
A win would send the Panthers to Stevenson University for a chance to play for an MPSSAA trophy. To get to that moment, however, Vaughn believes the Panthers need to avoid another first quarter let down.
“This was a wake up call for us, we realized that we are not invincible, we can be beaten and it was scary at first,” Vaughn said. “We also realized that when we get in those moments we can comeback and I think that was a really good lesson we learned today.”
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