The Fallston Cougars, just one year removed from a string of three straight championships won in 2007, 2008 and 2009, are headed back to the state field hockey finals after cruising past the Manchester Mavericks, 4-0, Wednesday night in the Class 1A semifinal round at Franklin High School in Reisterstown.
Fallston, which has been to 16 Maryland championship games in 36 years of MPSSAA field hockey tournaments, will be competing for its 13th state title at Washington College Saturday, when the Cougars will likely take on Pocomoke, 24-time state champ and winner of the Class 1A state championship eight years running.
"If we play Pocomoke in the final, we're going to have to work hard, because they are a fantastic team," Megan Grant, who guided Fallston to its last state championship in 2009 during her first year as head coach, said. "We are going to have to cut to the goal, and pressure from start to finish if we want to win. We used to play at Pocomoke's pre-season tournament, and haven't the last two years, but we know what a good program they have there. It will be tough."
Wednesday's semifinal contest was scoreless until the 16th minute, when Fallston's Sami Carter got a clear look from 10 yards out and blasted a shot past the Mavericks' keeper for the Cougars' first tally.
With 9:30 left in the first half, Fallston struck again, this time on a penalty corner. Danielle McDiarmid sent the ball in to Christina Wright, who rifled an attempt toward the goal. It was deflected by the Manchester Valley keeper, but Jenna Mosketti was waiting to pick up the rebound. She was quickly flicked a shot back into the net, putting Fallston up, 2-0.
The Cougars' next goal came four minutes later when Danielle McDiarmid collected her own rebound on a blocked shot and knocked in a second attempt from five yards out, giving the Cougars a 3-0 cushion.
With just under 90 seconds left before the half-time whistle, Fallston got its final goal of the game from Nicole McDiarmid.
"I told them before the game that we have to play to the team we're up against, and not think about anything else," Grant said. "I said we have to put lots of shots on goal, and keep the ball inside their 25-yard line. We were able to find some open shots, and finished really well tonight. Hopefully, we can keep up the focus we saw tonight."
Fallston won its spot in the semifinals by beating Patterson Mill in the 1A North regional title game, while Manchester Valley won the 1A West final with a 1-0 victory over Francis Scott Key.