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No. 5 Severna Park beats No. 1 South River in 4A East Regional final

The outcome seemed to be already written on the scoreboard, but with six seconds left South River called timeout with the ball and a corner opportunity at the Severna Park goal.

While the Seahawks attempted to come up with a scoring strategy, Severna Park's players were pumping themselves up to make one final stop.

"Oh my gosh," junior midfielder Marissa Balleza said. "There was six seconds left. We were telling each other, 'Just get it [the ball] out. We've got this. We've got this.'"

The result of that play didn't truly matter, as No. 5 Severna Park defended the final opportunity to preserve a 4-2 victory over No. 1 South River in the 4A East Region final.

But it showed just how much the Falcons (15-2) wanted to finally get past the Seahawks (16-2) and lock up a trip to Monday's state semifinals at Broadneck. They'll face the winner of the 4A South Region final between Blake and Springbrook.

"We always win when it matters," said Severna Park coach Lil Shelton, whose team's only losses this season came to South River.

For the Seahawks, the loss was particularly disappointing because the they did not play their best game. Along with winning both regular season meetings, South River scored a big win knocking off previously unbeaten Glenelg in last week's District V championship.

But Wednesday, Severna Park's stick work and gameplan worked to perfection.

"We understood the importance of defensive play," said Balleza, who scored twice, the second off a corner that turned out to be the game winner. "When they got through our forward line, our midfield made sure they didn't get to our back line. We learned from the last two times we played them."

Severna Park started fast, scoring off a corner opportunity with 23 minutes and 46 seconds to play in the first half, when Ally Adams drilled the shot from the top of the circle through the crowd and past goalie Shannon Flanagan (8 saves), who was screened from the ball.

Balleza made it 2-1 at 12:28, five minutes after Madelyn Santa had tied it for South River. The 2-1 lead held up through halftime, despite opportunities for South River, which had trouble with its footing and with its passing.

Then, just 1:13 into the second half, Balleza noticed that a teammate who was supposed to get off a corner shot was covered. She slipped into position to get the inbounds pass from Alex Watson and took a quick shot that again left South River scrambling.

"Those corners were designed to get the shot off before the goalie can locate the ball through all the defenders," South River coach Katie Corcoran said. "Severna Park did an excellent job with that. It was one of many aspects of our game that was off tonight.

"It's sad to lose when you know what you're capable of and didn't play to their potential, and Severna Park played an incredible game. … But I told our team to be so proud for all you've accomplished. It was a great season, regardless."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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