When Hereford High coach Tammy Mundie talks about her team's leading scorer, Mary Claire Abbott, she says, "She walks on the field like she owns it."
When the junior attacker didn't walk on the Lansdowne High field Thursday night for the start of the Baltimore County championship game, players on the Dulaney Lions might have felt like it was their turn to own the turf and end a two-game losing streak to the Bulls in county title clashes.
But, it was hard for the coach of the unbeaten Bulls (12-0) to keep her hungriest scorer down for long, and moments after she came into the game, she scored the first of the Bulls' goals on their way to a 2-0 victory.
It was the fourth straight Baltimore County championship for the Bulls and third straight year they defeated the Lions (8-5).
Abbott didn't start the game because she missed practice when she was sick, but she proved she could finish after getting tangled with Dulaney's Kenzie Brown just outside the circle.
"I was pretty fired up and I tried to go in and she (Brown) blocked it and I knew I didn't have much time and I just ripped it from the top," said Abbott, whose drive hit the corner of the post with just a tick under 12 minutes left in the first half.
Abbott also had the game-winning goal in last year's 1-0 triumph and learned from her dad that beating Dulaney is special.
"We are the biggest rivalry," she said. "My dad went to Hereford and his famous quote is 'You can only beat Dulaney so many times.' and I'm just trying to do it as long as I can."
"I told her it would be like our secret weapon and she would sit out for five minutes and I figured they would be marking her after five minutes anyway," Mundie said.
Abbott was just one of many weapons all over the field for the Bulls, who earned their eighth shutout of the season.
"It's no individual standouts at all," Mundie said. "It's just a solid team all around. They connect very well and they are always looking for each other and making excellent passes and they have a lot of speed and power to back that up and they just fill in the holes on the field very well."
They left very few openings on the defensive end of the field where goalie Missy Betsill was supported by senior defenders Kathleen Hillberg, Caroline Clancy and Katie Stuller and junior Caitlin Abbott.
Hillberg and Stuller, who came off the bench in the second half, each had goal-saving stops near the goal.
Dulaney's best scoring chance in the first half came with 4:40 left when Brown set up a dangerous shot that was repelled by Hillberg.
"She had a phenomenal game tonight," Mundie said. "She almost single-handedly shut down Dulaney on defense. Her tackles were so clean."
Stuller saved a potential goal after a nice connection from Dulaney's Jamie Roth to Brown to Samantha Thibeault, following a penalty corner with 13 minutes left in the second half.
Midfielders Jessica Karwicki, Shannon Martello and Rennie Tankersley covered a lot of ground and made frequent stops before Dulaney could get into transition.
Just over a minute after a shot by Thibeault was stopped by Betsill, Karwacki started a penalty corner that ended with her getting the second goal of the game just over four minutes gone in the second half.
"I passed it to Anna (Mowell) and she passed it to Lacey (Aghazarian) and she hit it in and I got the rebound," Karwacki said.
Hereford has now won 13 of the past 16 county titles, while Dulaney was shooting for its second championship since 2006.
"I can't be prouder," Mundie said. "They stepped up today against a really nice team."
Karwacki and company would like to make their coach even prouder — by winning a state championship.
"States is our next step for sure," Karwacki said.
The coach wouldn't argue with that.
"I think they are definitely state-championship material," Mundie said. "Aside from the speed and the power they have, they play so well as a team, and have such a love for the game and they bring such an optimistic spirit to practice every day and its a lot of fun."