Saving best half for first, Severna Park takes title


COLLEGE PARK -- Severna Park's field hockey team started a new tradition yesterday, turning in one of the most dominating first halves in tournament history to beat Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 3-1, for the Class 3A state championship.

In the clash of the two most successful programs in the 29-year history of the state tournament, Abbi Horn, Lauren Maranto and Kellie West scored on textbook corner plays in the first half. Despite a more defensive performance in the second half, the No. 2 Falcons held on to break the Barons' run of nine straight state crowns (the last eight coming in 2A). That's the longest run in tournament history.

"This is by far the best team we played all season, and they deserve their state championship," B-CC coach Amy Wood said. "I told my team before the game corners were going to be the difference. All four goals on corners. On turf, corners are deadly."

The victory extended the Falcons' state-best title count to 14. The Barons, who could have tied Severna Park at 13 with a victory, remain second with 12.

Falcons coach Lil Shelton had lamented the move from longtime tournament host Goucher College to the University of Maryland's Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, because the Falcons had so much history at Goucher.

Yesterday, a team of Falcons who had never been to the state tournament started their own tradition.

"This feels so awesome," said Maranto, who also had two assists. "The past couple years, we've been knocked out in the regional final, and we know we have a high-caliber team. Coming back strong this year just shows everyone we're not out of this and we're still coming back for more."

The Falcons (18-1) wasted little time impressing a crowd of 1,300, drawing three penalty corners in the first six minutes.

The third proved the charm as Maranto drove a ball from the left side that Horn put the perfect touch on, deflecting it inside the right post.

Nine minutes later, West sent a corner pass to Stacey Messick, who stopped it and touched it over to Maranto for the goal.

The Falcons made it 3-0 with 8:45 left in the half when Maranto crossed the ball to West for another deft touch into the corner. That goal was the 98th this season for the Falcons, a school record. The Barons had allowed only five goals all season.

By halftime, the Falcons had outshot the Barons 12-0.

"That first half was picture perfect," said Shelton, of her 405th career victory. "We were phenomenal."

The Falcons knew, as Wood did, that the game could easily come down to penalty corners, on which Severna Park had an 8-7 edge.

"They [the corners] were clicking today," Horn said. "I don't know if it was the turf or if we were doing extra special today, but they worked out."

Maranto said the speed of the ball on artificial turf gives the offense a greater advantage than on grass.

"The ball comes out a lot faster and the defense doesn't have as much of a chance to get out there," said the senior defender. "The shots come off a lot easier because it's not bouncing like it could possibly on grass. The turf is perfectly flat and you can whip it right out."

The Barons (15-2) tried to rally in the second half as they outshot the Falcons 13-0, but Severna Park held them off for the first 25 minutes. Allison Werner finally scored on a feed from Bethany Martin off the Barons' fifth corner of the half.

The win gives the Falcons a 4-2-1 edge in a series that began in the state final in 1986. Severna Park won that title and the next year's before the Barons took their first championship over the Falcons in 1988.

The two renewed their rivalry at Roland Park's Sally E. Nyborg Tournament in 1999 and have gone 1-1-1 in three meetings there, although this fall's tournament was rained out.

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