The preliminaries are over and No. 2 Loch Raven is waiting for the main event -- a long-awaited showdown with No. 1 Mount Hebron.
Yesterday's 22-3 Raiders victory over Fallston in a Class 1A-2A state semifinal set up Wednesday's rematch of last year's title game. Now the Raiders (17-0) are out to avenge their last loss -- one that ended their two-year reign as state champs and a 69-game winning streak.
"This is what we've been waiting for," said senior Shelley Klaes.
"They're the only team that can throw and catch and run and shoot just as well as we can, and we match up pretty well with them," said senior attacker Michele DeJuliis.
The Raiders also know Wednesday's title game at 5 p.m. at Catonsville Community College will be their last shot at the unbeaten Vikings, at least for a while. Mount Hebron, which beat Towson, 20-5, Friday in the other semifinal, moves up to Class 3A-4A next year.
Yesterday, the Raiders knocked Fallston (10-3) out of the state final for the third straight year. Although they won the past two times fairly easily, the Raiders weren't taking the Cougars lightly.
"I was worried about us getting down for this game, thinking about Hebron and not coming out strong," said Klaes. "We had to remind ourselves that Fallston could beat us if we weren't ready."
The Raiders were ready. They played well all over the field,
forcing turnovers on defense, hitting one pass after another through the midfield and shooting accurately.
In the first half, the Raiders scored 13 goals on just 20 shots. They also hit five of their first seven in the second half.
Often a slow-starting team, the Raiders got going quickly enough. DeJuliis scored the first goal and Klaes, Robyn Disney and Heather Kormanik made it 4-0 in the first four minutes.
Fallston's Jenny Weber scarfed up a ground ball and ran up the middle to score her team's only goal of the half.
The Raiders scored the next 14 straight before Anne West and Jenny Haslbeck added back-to-back Cougars goals to cut the margin to 18-3 with 9:02 left in the game.
With a strong passing game, the Raiders scored 14 assisted goals.
Klaes led the Raiders with five goals and three assists and Lauren Volk had three of each. DeJuliis scored four and Kormanik and Mary Edward, three each. Disney, Alison Wagner, Anne Heine and Christina Bhanos added single goals. Edwards and Kristi LaVardera also had two assists each.
Defensively, the Raiders got fine performances from Disney, Bhanos and Alison Jones as well as D wings Robyn Harry and Kim Allen.
"We had a whole group of kids who played well, and that's what we're going to need against Mount Hebron," said Raiders coach Wendy Galinn.