The game could have materialized into a high-scoring shootout or a defensive slugfest. The personnel on both teams made either scenario a possibility.
In the end, an outstanding defensive effort proved the difference in No. 3 Severna Park's 7-4 victory over No. 5 Annapolis in a battle of unbeaten girls lacrosse teams.
Junior Erin Wylde had three goals and senior Amy Carnaggio scored twice for Severna Park (12-0), which assured itself of the top seeding in this week's Class 4A-3A, Region IV playoffs, one spot ahead of Annapolis.
Seniors Lauren Feinstein, Shannon Cordell and Nicole Deschamps, and freshman Becky Morris each scored once for Annapolis, which was held to its lowest offensive output of the season. Junior Cristi Samaras, the county's leading scorer with 47 goals and 35 assists, was shut out for the first time this season by the close marking of Severna Park senior Stephanie Roberts.
Samaras, who received a red card with 20 seconds left, played both third home and center, and often was left out of what little offensive flow the Panthers could manage.
"I thought it would be a challenge, and this gave me something to really get up for," Roberts said. "I just stayed on her the whole time. Coach [Carin] Peterson told me not to drop off of her."
Roberts, who also scored a goal, didn't turn in the day's only defensive gem. Juniors Kathy McCafferty, Mary Jo Mahoney and Erin McNeally, and sophomore Jessica Hines were exceptional, and senior goalkeeper Brandee Snyder made 10 saves -- many from close range.
"We forced the ball and made some passes we shouldn't have made, and that caused a breakdown in our offense," said Annapolis coach Dave Gehrdes, who received a stellar performance from his goalkeeper, junior Kate Brew (10 saves).
"We had some excellent opportunities and didn't capitalize, and their keeper had a great game."
The Panthers (12-1) haven't just beaten opponents this season, they've hammered them into submission with a prolific attack that figured to put Severna Park's 23-game winning streak in jeopardy. But after taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1, Annapolis was dominated until scoring the last two goals at 14:02 and 23:15.
"We have a really nice defense,and we played it to a T," said Peterson, whose team defeated Annapolis in last year's region finals, 13-10, en route to a sixth consecutive 4A-3A state championship. "We were able to deny them the ball."
Though Severna Park got the best of Annapolis in last year's region playoffs, a 9-7 overtime loss to the Panthers earlier in the season hadn't been forgotten. It was the Falcons' last defeat, and one that has stuck with many of them, including Wylde.
"It just felt good to beat them the first time around this year," she said.
Carnaggio bounced a shot past Brew with 9:54 left in the first half to tie the score at 2. Wylde then freed herself from the close defense of Annapolis freshman Stephy Samaras and scored with 8:22 remaining, and Severna Park had seized control.