Centennial girls soccer coach Rick Pizarro said he held his breath until the Eagles scored their second goal last night.
Then came a deep sigh of relief. And the realization that his team was about to move another game closer to defending its state championship.
Senior midfielder Natalie Rich converted a pass from freshman Michelle Clare to give Centennial its first lead with 9:36 left, and the Eagles went on to a 3-1 win over top seed Severna Park in the Class 4A-3A semifinals at Severna Park High.
Centennial (14-1), ranked No. 1 in the metro area, will meet second seed Dulaney in Saturday's 1 p.m. final at Arundel High. Dulaney routed third-seed South Carroll, 6-2, in the other semifinal last night.
Rich (eight goals, two assists) gathered a crossing pass from Clare, who had drawn Severna Park freshman keeper Shannon Chaney out of the net, and scored uncontested. Clare (12, seven) put the game out of reach on a breakaway goal with 3:15 remaining.
"When we got the second goal, that was the first time I took a
deep breath," Pizarro said. "I knew then that my girls weren't going to roll over."
Rich's goal came less than a minute after Severna Park junior stopper Shelley Seivert was given her second yellow card and ejected. An official ruled that Seivert had pushed Rich -- one of many calls that infuriated the Falcons.
"In my opinion, the refs took the game out of the kids' hands," said coach Joyce Stefancik, whose team finished 12-2-1. "In 14 ++ years of coaching, I have never had a girl thrown out of a game.
"The second goal was scored in the confusion of being a player short and all that. I don't mean to sound like sour grapes and a spoil sport, but I take pride in the fact that my kids do not get cards. As a matter of fact, to my knowledge, that's the first card we've gotten all season."
Centennial's first goal came after the Falcons were called for obstruction with 32:09 left in the game. Senior Vicky Brunt sent an indirect kick to sophomore Shara Boonshaft, who lofted a shot over Chaney's head to tie the score, 1-1.
"I can't wait to see the film," Stefancik said. "I hope that it was a blatant obstruction for them to call it in a state semifinal."
The Falcons had gone ahead, 1-0, just 3:52 into the game when senior Stephanie Roberts took a long pass from senior Amy Carnaggio in the middle of the field, cut to the left and scored past fallen Centennial keeper Laura Bradburn.