UPPER MARLBORO – Attacker Colby Cooper tried not to scream through the stinging pain, but her eyes were already filled with tears. The Dr. Henry Wise, Jr. High School sophomore was accidentally hit by an opposing stick on her head during a loose ball scramble in a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Attacker Colby Cooper tried not to scream through the stinging pain, but her eyes were already filled with tears. The Dr. Henry Wise, Jr. High School sophomore was accidentally hit by an opposing stick on her head during a loose ball scramble in a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A girls lacrosse state playoff match against Bowie High School on May 11.
The pain she exhibited was severe enough, and the fear of a possible flare-up of a previous ankle injury as well, forced Head Coach Jeanine Cummings to remove Cooper from the action.
However, Cooper, Wise’s leading goal-scorer, quickly began to smile as the trainer cleared her to continue play. The cheerful student-athlete started pressing Cummings to put her back in the game, even with only 30 seconds left before halftime.
“One thing I can say about Colby is that she is a team player,” Cummings said. “Honestly, her spirit is bubbly…but she is tough. I know she plays hard and plays tough. Sometimes, you got to settle down and back off. She does not back down. If anything, she’s going to intensify even more and take it two steps further from that.”
She made her entrance onto the field again and barreled through the defense, imposing her will on Bowie. Cooper’s intensity is matched by her skills as a goal scorer as she accounted for five goals with two added after the head injury. With Cooper leading the charge, the Lady Pumas quickly pounced all over Bowie to win 11-6, in the second round of the state playoff tournament.
It has been a tremendous turnaround this year for the Lady Pumas (11-2) after ending last season with only three regular season wins. Cummings, who coached the school’s boys lacrosse team last season, was asked by Wise officials during the offseason to make the switch.
Hesitant at first, Cummings used her same tough love displayed with her boys team and demanded the girls to end their selfish style of play. Senior midfielder Ashli Bryan, who has played lacrosse at Wise all four years, admits that Cummings’ honesty and tough demeanor is working and is perfectly suited for her and her teammates.
“We love her,” Bryan said. “(Cummings) is aggressive but she makes us work harder and be there as a team. We butt heads every time but it in a fun manner that works.”
Wise struck first when sophomore Tashara Clay fired a loose ball into the goal for an early lead. The Lady Pumas would take advantage of free position shots, scoring five of their seven first half goals off of those open opportunities. Meanwhile, the Pumas defense disrupted Bowie’s pass-heavy offense with quick interceptions and stick checks to create turnovers.
The Lady Bulldogs (8-5) attempted to fight back by being very physical on defense while looking for the open shot on offense. Junior Dorien Cochins’ first-half hat-trick provided a late spark as Bowie headed into halftime down by four goals. Freshman Alexis Faucette scored back-to-back goals in two minutes to start the second half, breathing new life in Bowie’s attack.
However, the loss of freshman Julia Pierson before halftime with a knee injury hampered Bowie’s offense. Despite her class status, Pierson organized the front lines and created scoring plays with her passing abilities. Adding with her scoring prowess, Bowie became limited in what they could do in the second half, Head Coach Kevin Bayly said.
While the Lady Bulldogs struggled to score, the defense had no answers to stop Copper. The Our Lady of Good Counsel High School transfer continued to press down on Bowie’s defense to take shots or create passing plays. The sophomore scored two more goals, increasing her season total to 99 goals and solidified Wise’s third straight victory over the inaugural county champions.
“It was a physical game but what do you expect,” Copper said. “We beat them twice, including on their senior night, so they came with a vengeance, but I’m just glad my teammates and I got it done.”
The victory sets up a regional semifinals showdown between the up-and-coming Lady Pumas and one of the two teams that beat them this year, the county champions: Eleanor Roosevelt High School. A lot has changed since the 19-11 loss on April 16, Cummings said, and winning a regional final berth can fully demonstrate how far Wise’s program has come.
“It feels sweet (to beat Bowie) honestly,” Cooper said. “From where we started at the beginning of the season, it took us a lot of time (to come together). However, we have been working outside of practice, and I could not ask for a better team, they just hustle and it’s a nice feeling that we can do it all together.”