Two former soccer players boosted their field hockey skills a notch yesterday, and led unbeaten Fallston High School to a second successive state Class 2A championship in a 2-0 victory over Elkton at Goucher College.
Carrie Grable, a junior link who had switched sports after her freshman season, scored the first goal with 10:50 left in the game and set up the second one, knocked in by Meredith Weinhold, 1:18 later.
Junior goalkeeper Julie Clark, who, with no previous experience, came over to field hockey this season, saw more action in the circle in front of her than she had all year.
L For No. 2-ranked Fallston, the tradition rolls on unchecked.
With the victory, the Cougars and coach Alice Puckett (12 years) have now won five state titles in the past seven years. (The other two years, 1991-92, as a Class A school, Fallston lost 1-0 regional games on goals by Rising Sun's Paula Beaudette, more recently a national record-setting scorer for Harford CC).
The school's five titles are third on the state list to Severna Park (eight) and Middletown (six).
This year's team ran up a 16-0-0 record, outscoring the opposition 46-1. During the last two years, Fallston is 30-0-2, and goals have been allowed in only two games (a 2-2 tie with Francis Scott Key last year and a 4-1 win over North Harford this season).
Included among this year's victims was Elkton in the last game of the regular season, 2-0. Last year, the Cougars played the tough Cecil County teams -- Rising Sun and Elkton -- in two of their last three games (a 1-0 win and 0-0 tie), then swept through the playoffs. This year they were the last two regular-season foes over Rising Sun).
Puckett said she thought it was a good way to go into the playoffs -- backed by two good closing games.
Of this meeting with the Elks (13-3), she said: "We thought the key would be breaking up their speed by controlling the transition game, but we didn't do it. In the first half, the ball was moving too easily into our end.
"Clark was excellent. With goalies who are relatively untested, you never know how they are going to react in pressure situations. She passed the test."
"This time, our offense was more explosive. And Carrie has played explosively all year. She has speed and intensity, and she saved us in the game last Monday [1-0 semifinal win over North Carroll]."
The first goal came off a penalty corner, as consistent Lauren Grabowski (11 assists for the year) put the ball on Grable's stick, and, "I swung and hoped," she said. "The longer into the game it got [without scoring], the tougher it got."
Stacey French, one of six senior starters, in recent weeks has had tendinitis in her left wrist, which is now wrapped in a cast. "It's been quite an adjustment," she said.
Still, she said: "We pressured more this time than before. We practiced rushing in the circle. We had a couple of good shots that hit their goalie's pads in the first half. Then, Carrie's got such a quick stick and it has paid off all season [six goals, three assists]. And Lauren always seems to find the open man."
Senior backs Kathleen Turk and Julie Haire were tireless on defense, against a quick and aggressive Elks' offense, led by forwards Lindsay DiEmedio and Beth Getty, and link Jeana Brentlinger. They, along with Barbara Ordes, kept knocking the ball out of their end with long hits.
Elkton coach Linda Wilson felt her team was ready, coming in off its upset win over top seed Pikesville.
"After their first goal, we were trying to get a timeout to get things settled, but we didn't get it," she said. "And then they came right back with another one."