The Fallston Cougars were clearly the better team in their 2-0 win over Richard Montgomery in yesterday's Class 3A field hockey state semifinal at Goucher College.
The No. 7 Cougars had an 18-3 edge in shots and a 12-3 advantage in penalty corners.
But controversy came with the win that will send the Cougars (14-3) back to Goucher College at 11: 30 a.m. Saturday to defend their state crown against No. 8 Long Reach -- a 2-1 winner over Calvert in yesterday's other semifinal.
At the end of the first half, just after the Cougars had taken a 1-0 lead on a penalty stroke by Stephanie Yancone with 1: 29 left, the Rockets (12-3-1) had a goal taken away after miscommunication between the officials on the field and the official with the clock.
The Rockets got off a penalty corner as the final seconds were being counted down.
On penalty corners at the end of a half or the game, play continues, even after time expires, until the ball leaves the scoring circle or an infraction occurs to cause a whistle.
The Rockets went on to score, but a defensive foul on Fallston was called between time expiring and the goal being scored.
Originally, the field official allowed the Rockets to play on after the foul was called, resulting in a goal by Erin Dunston.
But after the officials gathered, the goal was taken away, appar- ently because the foul occurred after time had expired.
Because it was a defensive foul, another penalty corner was awarded to the Rockets. But they couldn't convert and went into the halftime break down 1-0.
"When there's a foul by the defensive team, the offensive team plays on. And the corner wasn't over because [the ball] still remained in the circle," said Richard Montgomery 17-year coach Sissy Natoli, whose team was making its first state playoff appearance since 1992. "It's all how the rule is interpreted. But in a state game like this, these things shouldn't happen. Fallston outplayed us, but it was tough to come back after something like that."
The Cougars protected their one-goal lead well in the second half, getting a strong performance from their attack, led by Jen Selin, and reliable support from their midfield and defense.
Kellie Watts provided the insurance goal with 2: 24 left -- a rebound off a shot from Kelly Biedermann -- with Selin originally carrying the ball into the circle.
"We had really good passing today. I looked up, and there were people to pass to everywhere," said Selin. "We came out really intense. We know what it's like at states, and I think that really helps."
To capture their eighth state title on Saturday, the Cougars will have to get past a Long Reach team that defeated them, 1-0, on Sept. 14.
The Lightning scored on a three-on-one fast break in the first half and got a strong performance in goal from senior Jaye Lance.
"I don't think we need to do anything different," said Fallston senior goalkeeper Ashley Staples. "We've got to play with heart and our heads and make it work -- whatever it takes."