Severna Park aims to put final touch on soccer sweep Top-seeded girls face Dulaney; boys take on Churchill


When Severna Park's girls soccer team won its third consecutive state championship in 1990, some people wondered when the streak would end.

It stopped sooner than the Falcons had hoped.

Three years later, the top-seeded Falcons (14-1) are on the threshold of their fourth title, needing just a victory tonight over No. 2 seed Dulaney in the Class 3A-4A final at Liberty in Carroll County.

The school's boys soccer coach, Don Gregg, also knows a thing or two about championship droughts, though his dry spell has lasted much longer.

Severna Park is 0-5-1 in state boys finals, having shared the title with Bowie in 1983. Its last appearance came in 1989, when Walt Whitman prevailed, 2-0.

But that, too, can be remedied. All the Falcons (13-2) need is to stop Winston Churchill tomorrow night at Old Mill in the 4A final.

Will the two Severna Park teams pull off the sweep?

"It would be real nice having a sister-brother [Lindsey and Bryce Poland] on state-championship teams," said girls soccer coach Joyce Stefancik.

"The girls are upbeat and I think our chances are good. They're very positive about it. We feel good, with the competition that we've met throughout the season preparing us for Dulaney.

"Of course, soccer's a game where the best team doesn't always win," Stefancik said. "It's whoever gets the ball in the goal."

Dulaney (13-2) hasn't had much trouble doing that. Aimee Vaughan leads the way with 41 goals and 11 assists, and Stefancik said, "She has all the physical attributes of an excellent player -- speed, size, strength, ability."

But Stefancik isn't concerned only with the senior forward. "You can't overlook [Abby] Bausman [20, 14] at midfield. When I've seen them play, I've been quite impressed with her," she said.

"I'm also impressed with their keeper [Kate Szper, nine shutouts]. She comes out and has good hands. They're a good team, obviously, or they wouldn't be there."

Dulaney has a third potent scorer in sophomore midfielder Ali Schuch (26, eight) -- whose late goal defeated Chesapeake, 1-0, in the semifinals -- but the Falcons possess their share of weapons.

Poland, a sophomore, leads the team in scoring with 14 goals and five assists. Senior Erin Wylde has 12 goals -- including the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over Centennial in the semifinals -- and one assist.

The defense can utterly frustrate an opponent, as it did against Centennial. Stopper Shelley Seivert (two goals, nine assists) and fullback Jess Hines (seven, five) are healthy again, and goalkeeper Shannon Chaney has tied Tami Riley for most shutouts in a season with 13.

Chaney had 10 saves against Centennial, but she also received ample support from Carrie Budzinski, Susan Stanke and Janet Rupert. The unit combined to stifle Centennial's leading scorer, Michelle Clare (16 goals).

Wylde, Seivert and Budzinski are four-year starters, "and are three of the top-notch players that I've ever coached," Stefancik said. Wylde, Seivert and Hines were named second-team All-State, and Budzinski was chosen honorable mention.

Earlier in the week, Stefancik said she hadn't decided whether to mark Vaughan with one player. Don't count on it.

"We've played everybody else this year straight up and except for Old Mill [a 3-0 loss], we've come out on the upper end. I don't know how else we'd play her," she said.

Stefancik, in her 15th season, said that her team is "peaking at the right time.

"Our strength always has been our passing game, and that looks tremendous. Our defense is looking good," she said.

"We're optimistic. We have one of the strongest teams that I've coached. They're as strong as the championship teams because there's strength all over."

The same is true on the boys side, and Gregg hopes it's enough to carry the second-seeded Falcons past No. 1 seed and nationally ranked Churchill.

Offensively, Severna Park is led by junior forward Scott Neuberger (15-3) -- a second-team All-State selection -- and senior Matt Swift (10 goals, three assists). Junior midfielder Kelly Harris has four goals and nine assists.

The midfield also includes much-improved Bob Habicht and Matt Benewicz, and the defense is anchored by Poland.

"We have a lot of talent comparable to the other teams I've coached, but there's more cohesiveness here. It's been a team effort," Gregg said.

Severna Park has proven that it can win the tight games, having defeated North County 5-4 in double overtime in the regional finals, and winning a shootout with Northwestern in the state semifinals.

"They have a lot of character and they're pretty focused," Gregg said.

Gregg had been alternating goalkeepers for much of the season, replacing Andy Sheehan at halftime with Adam Hurst, and the result has been seven shutouts. But Sheehan is "doing the job," Gregg said, and is expected to play the entire game tomorrow.

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