At long last: Covenant wins first field hockey title in school history

After the state quarterfinals, Covenant star Lizzy Shim made it clear that senior Bunny Gaffney was one player who truly, truly wanted to win a state title. It helped that there were some family bragging rights on the line. Her older brothers Drew and Jay Gaffney won a pair of titles with the Eagles’ boys lacrosse team back in 2014 and 2015.


“My brothers had back-to-back state championships,” Gaffney said. “I definitely had to get one.”


Saturday, she and the Eagles got their one, the first field hockey state title in school history, with a 2-0 victory over Cape Henry in the VISAA D2 title match at Longwood University, powered by a pair of goals from UVa commitment Lizzy Shim early in the first half.


“We put everything into this, we put our lunches into this trying to meet together to figure stuff out,” Shim said. “We put our bodies into this, training, conditioning and trying to eat right. Honestly that pays off and it shows that it does.”


The Eagles were aggressive from the start, leaving little doubt in the early proceedings that they were in control just a day after they had to win in an overtime shootout to earn a spot in the final. Shim blasted home goals on two short corners, the first a a direct attack after the Ivy Allen insertion pass, the second a play where Madison Fagan pushed Allen’s insertion to her right to set up another Shim rocket, this time on a reverse chip.


“One goal is good, but two goals it fortifies (the idea) that this game is ours, that we’ve got this,” Shim said. “And ultimately it was ours, and I’m just really proud of everyone and all the coaches and everyone that made this possible.”


From there, with a 2-0 lead in hand, Covenant held on tight.


“Coach (Annie Gumbs) said after they called timeout after Lizzy’s second goal to just really take your time on all the plays, because we really had the state championship in hand,” Gaffney said. “Even though there were 40 minutes left, we still had it and we were confident.”


That confidence showed as the Eagles continued to create chances and repelled the few opportunities that Cape Henry was able to create while Covenant’s midfield dominated the possession game.


Eventually the clock melted and the Eagles were champions, completing the mission they’ve been on since falling last year in the state semifinals. That year, a dominant Covenant squad that swept every local opponent it faced, stumbled in the semifinals. Losing just a couple of seniors, albeit important ones, the Eagles regrouped and got locked in this season. A fast start then gave way to a stumble as they lost to Albemarle and tied Western Albemarle, with injuries playing a part in those struggles. But by midseason, with a win over Collegiate at home, Covenant was primed for a title run, culminating in Saturday’s near-flawless performance.


“It was really amazing to see our whole team, all the work this season, to have it pay off today,” said senior Maysn Whitten.


For Gumbs, it’s a culmination of several years of work by everyone in the program.


“A lot of these girls have been on the team for four years and it has been this building process that’s been going on for four years,” Gumbs said. “It’s really, really exciting to finally play in the championship game and come away with a win. They have worked so hard all season long, it’s awesome.”