Continually playing a very close second best to Annapolis the past couple of years hasn't been easy for Severna Park, and it was something the Falcons were determined to change yesterday.
Taking the initiative early and finding the answers late, the No.4 Falcons turned the tables on the two-time defending Class4A-3A state champion Panthers with a pressure-relieving 13-10 win for the East region title.
Meg Miller was the catalyst; goalie Kim Lawton was sturdy in the cage with 10 saves; and Nicki Barnes and Kristen Burke combined to score seven goals to propel the Falcons (16-3) to the state semifinals at UMBC this weekend.
"This is something we've talked about since Day One," Lawton said. "We all came a half an hour early today, listened to some music and talked about coming out pumped up because we thought the team who had more energy and did the little things would win."
Miller, picking up right where she left off from last week's come-from-behind 9-8 win over the No.3 Panthers for the county championship, set the tone, going directly to the cage to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead two minutes into play.
The senior defender, last year's Anne Arundel Player of the Year, finished with three goals, three assists and also contributed prominently at the defensive end, taking away an Annapolis pass with 2:06 left in the game and the Falcons leading 11-10.
"After coming back with the last four goals in the county championship, that showed we had a lot of character and a lot of courage to beat them," Miller said.
The past two seasons, the Panthers' biggest playoff test, by far, came from Severna Park in the region playoffs. Last season, the Panthers won the state title with a comfortable 13-4 win over Liberty.
Severna Park coach Carin Peterson knows there's still work to be done, but yesterday's win will be enjoyed.
"We know this region championship usually determines the state title, but we don't want to put it in our bag before we have it," Peterson said.
The Panthers, who staved off elimination with an 12-11 win over Broadneck after trailing 9-4 at the half of Monday's semifinal, closed the season at 16-2-1.
"This is hard after winning the last two years at states; it's hard thinking we're not going to practice tomorrow," said Annapolis junior Kristy Dirks. "...Severna Park played a good game, we wish them luck and hope they can bring the state title back to Anne Arundel."
Class 3A-2A-1A South
Mount Hebron 26, Southern-AA 7: The visiting Vikings, who have won seven state titles in the past eight years, took control with a 13-2 first-half run in the region final in Harwood.