For most of this season, Fallston All-Metro forward Lindsey Puckett has been playing a supportive role on the attack, often setting up the plays for her team in the circle.
In last night's state Class 3A semifinal, Puckett took over as a finisher.
The junior drove in three goals to lead the No. 5 Cougars to a 5-1 victory over No. 11 Centennial and earn them a chance at their 10th state title. The Cougars (15-2-1) will meet Bethesda-Chevy Chase - a 3-1 winner in last night's other semifinal - Tuesday night at Broadneck.
The Cougars dominated last night's game with smooth passing on Broadneck's turf field. Puckett increased her season goal total from six to nine in about 16 minutes.
"Lindsey Puckett, wow," Centennial coach Gail Purcell said. "The two goals [in the second half] were just beautiful. As a junior, she's such a standout."
Puckett's goals came through the middle of the game after Rachel Cooke gave the Cougars a lead barely two minutes after it started. Puckett boosted the score to 4-0 with 22:29 left in the game before the Eagles (16-3) managed a single shot.
"I felt like they backed off a little, because they thought we were going to pass, so I took the open shot," said Puckett, who sent three powerful drives past Centennial goalie Liz Snyder.
The Eagles orchestrated scoring chances in the final 20 minutes, and their attack perked up after Mary Teeters scored on a penalty stroke with 12:50 left. Even though the Cougars took just 19 seconds to answer that goal with one from Caitlin Dempsey on a feed from Alyssa Elliott, the Eagles spent most of the rest of the game on attack.
Still, the Cougars' early domination made all the difference.
"We were ready to play," said Fallston coach Alice Puckett, Lindsey's mother.
Centennial, the Howard County champion, had trouble with the Cougars' speed.
"They move the ball very quickly," said Teeters, a senior defender. "I don't know if they've played on turf before or not, but this is a whole other level for us. We've never played on turf. They're very quick and they've got great stick skills and they're a very good team."
The Cougars, who fell in the state semifinals last season to eventual champ Severna Park (now in Class 4A), have not played on turf this season. They play a lot of indoor hockey in the winter which, Lindsey Puckett said, helps them on turf.
The night marked the final game for Purcell, who will retire after 31 years with the Eagles, 300 wins, seven trips to state semifinals and one state crown, in 1995.