FREDERICK -- Wilde Lake forward Faryn Watts was the smallest player in front of the Catonsville goal before a corner kick in the second half of yesterday's Class 3A state semifinal game.
That the 5-foot-1 senior headed in the free kick sent toward the near post by Caitlin Duff couldn't have come as a surprise to the No. 9 Wildecats, who have overcome a tough early schedule and key injuries.
Watts scored with 28:59 left in the second half, and the Wildecats' defense handled the rest to come away with a 2-1 win over the No. 10 Comets in steady rain at Tuscarora. Wilde Lake (16-4) will make its second state championship appearance Thursday, taking on the Urbana-Northern (Calvert) winner.
After losing starting defenders Maddy Parks and Toria Shepherd early in the season and then having senior forward and captain Katie Leffner go down to an injury in their 1-0 win over No. 1 Fallston for the East regional title, the Wildecats have been able to collectively step up to reach the title game.
"Initially, we lost the two players and we realized we had to step it up even more, so our intensity just increased," said Watts, who has 12 goals and eight assists. "We've been on a roll since the middle of the season, and then when the playoffs came; we felt we needed to bring another level of intensity in order to win states."
The Wildecats started fast, putting five shots on Catonsville goalie Nicole Chupka before finally breaking through on a goal from Duff in the 20th minute. Senior midfielder Skye Fishbein won a ball inside the penalty area on the right side and sent a left-footed cross to the far post for Duff, who volleyed it in.
Being down a goal, something rare for a Catonsville team that had 13 shutouts, seemed to give the Comets (16-2) added urgency that led to a tying goal from forward Jessica Nonn five minutes later. The senior ran on to a clear from beyond midfield and got through the Wildecats' defense before hitting a left-footed shot from 16 yards into the far right corner for her 32nd goal of the season.
The Comets, making their first state tournament appearance, pressed in the early minutes of the second half. But they couldn't score the go-ahead goal.
"Any time you get this far, you certainly have to be happy and proud of your team's effort," Catonsville coach James Fitzpatrick said. "I thought we came out like gangbusters in the second half, but we were just not able to get that second goal that we needed."