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Fallston's state field hockey title hopes fall short with 2-1 loss

CHESTERTOWN - Alice Puckett returned to coach Fallston's field hockey team two years ago and the Cougars have been trying to add another state championship ever since.

They're going to have to wait another year.

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Fallston held an early lead over North Carroll, thanks to a penalty corner goal, but lost it before halftime and fell behind for good midway through the second half before losing, 2-1, in the Class 1A state final Saturday at Washington College.

Puckett left the program in 2008 after 26 seasons and 11 state championships, and Fallston won three more crowns from 2009-12. She came back to the Cougars and continued to schedule top-notch opponents, which is why their 10-8-1 record may be deceiving.

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"It was a very tough schedule," said Puckett, whose team lost to quality foes such as Glenelg, Mount Hebron and Archbishop Spalding this fall. "I said to them too, 'A month-and-a-half ago, if I told you we'd be here tonight, you probably would have doubted yourselves. But you just got better.'"

North Carroll (15-2) overcame its first deficit of the postseason, when Fallston freshman Kylie Ryan scored on a corner pass from senior Meghan Muldoon, then changed the flow of the game in the second half with a faster-paced, pressure-packed assault on the Cougars' defense.

It paid off when NC junior Jensyn Koontz got her stick on a loose ball during a scramble inside the circle with 16:30 to go. Fallston goalie Caitlin Phillips came out to try and clear the ball away, but Koontz spotted an opening knocked the ball into the cage.

Phillips made 10 saves against North Carroll and kept Fallston close. Koontz's goal took away some of Fallston's rhythm, however, and the Cougars never really got it back.

"I thought that we were a little tentative in the second half more than anything else," said Puckett, who has 357 career wins in her 28 seasons. "We were kind of, like, statue-like at times, for a lack of a better word. I thought we played such a good first half, that I don't know why we didn't come out more confident in the second half."

"When they start standing, nothing good comes from that."

Puckett said she and NC coach Denean Koontz are friends and it felt good to reconnect with each other for such a big game (North Carroll and Fallston scrimmaged each other for several years). The Cougars have been a power with Puckett as their coach – 23 state tournament trips to go with their state titles – but the Panthers have owned 1A for two straight seasons.

"I tip my hat to North Carroll, they played a great game, and I love Denean," Puckett said. "She's one of my favorite people. So it's good to compete with them."

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