Despite losing three games during the regular season for the first time in as long as anyone in the program can remember, the No. 2 Severna Park field hockey team never lost its swagger.
The Falcons responded to those losses by rolling through their first three regional playoff games while outscoring their opponents 18-2.
Last night against No. 7 Westminster in the Class 4A state semifinals, Severna Park got an early score by Julie Gardner and its defense did not allow the Owls a shot on goal in a 1-0 victory.
Severna Park will go after its 17th state championship on Monday at Broadneck when it meets Quince Orchard, the defending 4A champion that beat Wootton, 3-0, in the other semifinal.
The Falcons moved up one class this season after winning the 3A title last year, but coach Lillian Shelton does not see that as a disadvantage in the championship game.
"My girls said: 'You three teams, how dare you beat us in the regular season. We are going to come back with a vengeance.' And did we ever," said Shelton, whose record is 479-53-9 in 32 years at the school. "I think a lot of people counted us out when we lost those three games. The only difference in 3A [is] we got to play against teams we never saw before. Here in 4A, we play against South River and Broadneck and other teams we play [during the regular season]."
The Owls came into the game with solid defense and had allowed only two goals in 15 games. Although Westminster's defense continued to play tough against the Falcons, the offense had trouble adjusting to the quickness of Severna Park's defenders.
The Falcons (15-3) scored 13 minutes into the game on a long shot by Gardner that found the far corner of the cage. The Owls tried to respond by stringing together several passes in the middle of the field, but they could not find any holes in Severna Park's high-pressure defense.
The Falcons' regular-season losses came against Chesapeake-Anne Arundel, Broadneck and South River.
"We knew the postseason was the only season where we needed to be undefeated," Gardner said.
In the second half, Severna Park continued to pound Westminster's goal, but Owls goaltender Kate Slade came up with saves on several point-blank shots.
The Owls (14-2) were appearing in the state tournament for the first time since 2002. Coach Mary Rivera hopes last night's semifinal is the start of a long streak.
"That was the first time we found a team quicker than us," Rivera said. "Westminster has been in the state semifinals back in the day, and we are trying to get back to that [on a consistent basis]."