The Chesapeake Cougars defense was stopping teams with remarkable regularity all season long. And then came Nicki Barnes and the Severna Park Falcons this week.
With Barnes scoring two quick goals last night to pave the way, the No. 2-ranked Falcons left No. 10 Chesapeake with a comfortable 4-2 win and their 21st county championship in 22 years.
The Falcons win was their second in three nights against the Cougars, who entered the week with 10 straight shutouts.
Guess who provided the only goal in Tuesday's regular-season finale -- a 1-0 Severna Park win -- coming late in the first half? Barnes.
Last night, the junior left wing got started a little earlier.
First came a strong drive from 10 yards out that squeezed between the pads of Chesapeake goalie Meghann Bush for a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the game.
Three minutes later, Barnes finished from a little closer in, jamming home a soft pass from Erin Shaklee off a penalty corner first sent in by Katie Reim.
"We've been having trouble coming out fast, but we came out well tonight. It's really good to get a couple under your belt early," said Barnes, who has 17 goals on the season.
The Falcons weren't through in the first half with senior Shaklee getting her 17th goal of the season on a penalty stroke after a period of relentless pressure.
"Once they scored the first one, we lost all our intensity," said Chesapeake coach Jerry Taylor. "It was hard for them to realize it was OK, that we can come back from a one-goal deficit."
Three goals, however, was simply too much as the Falcons put together one of their finest halves as they prepare to defend their Class 4A state championship.
"This was a good game. Chesapeake has nice stickwork and they get to the ball in a hurry," said Severna Park coach Lil Shelton. "Nicki [Barnes] is just amazing. Her expertise is carrying the ball down the field. They kind of double-teamed her, she would get by one defender and another girl would slide over."
Taylor said the Falcons' speed, most noticeably from Barnes, gave the Cougars' usually stifling defense problems.
"They're all pretty quick and move the ball around well," she said. "Our defense was able to slide over fast enough to adjust."
Emily Ison scored early in the second half to cut the lead to 3-1, but the Falcons regained the three-goal lead midway through when Krista Fisher connected on another penalty stroke. Senior Jen Franklin closed out the scoring in the final minute, giving the Cougars something to build on for the postseason.
"I was pleased we put two goals in," said Taylor. "We never quit -- our girls were still trying to score with the clock on the field."