Defending Class 1A state champion Fallston girls soccer picked up right where it left off in last year’s title game when star forward Katherine King scored 23 seconds into Saturday’s state final against South Carroll.
It turned out, King and the No. 14 Cougars had much more work to do this time at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
Finding themselves down a goal at halftime, the Cougars stayed persistent and found their way.
King added two more goals three minutes apart in the second half — the tying goal in the 54th minute and her 20th goal of the season in the 57th — as Fallston claimed a 3-2 win over the Cavaliers.
The Cougars, a 6-0 winner against Brunswick in last year’s title game, end the season with a 16-3 mark. In addition to the stern test from South Carroll (10-6-2) on Saturday, they also had to rally to beat Hereford in last week’s semifinal.
Under first-year coach Jon Salbeck, the Cougars started the season at what they called “Ground Zero,” and they closed it with the program’s sixth state crown.
“It’s pretty cool when you go into the locker room down, 2-1, and you look at these girls and they’re like ‘We’re not worried about this.’ They have so much confidence in themselves,” Salbeck said.
After studying game film, King and company were confident they could get behind South Carroll’s defense. The Cavaliers, who were playing in their first state title game, put up a strong effort, but the Cougars weren’t going to be denied.
With 26:40 left, King ran on to a through ball sent in by Abby Richard and finished from 14 yards to tie the game. Three minutes later, the Cougars got deep in the penalty area with Ellie Ajello finding Sarah Farally, who played a ball across to King right in front for the easy game-winner.
“I just tapped it in. Ellie and Sarah Farally did all the hard work and I couldn’t be happier for all the hard work they put in for that goal,” said King, who added 14 assists this season.
The Cavaliers, who went 5-5-2 during the regular season, gave their all in finding an equalizer in the remaining minutes, but Fallston’s defense held its ground. Lauren Chesney got a direct kick on net from 40-plus yards that was easily handled by Cougars goalie Leah Rhinehart, who finished with three saves.
Asked what was the most important thing the senior class would like to pass on to the Cougars moving forward, Ajello, who finished with 14 goals and got her 13th assist on King’s opening goal, said: “The bonds are what makes the team strong and I think you just have to enjoy your time here because it goes by fast.”
Contending with a tough regular-season schedule and various illnesses and injuries, the Cavaliers showed an equally close bond in going on a five-game playoff run to make program history.
After getting shocked in Saturday’s opening minute, they impressively regrouped with Kylie Malone’s goal tying the game in the 15th minute and an own goal surrendered by Fallston providing a 2-1 lead with 14 minutes to play in the first half.
But despite South Carroll’s best efforts, the Cougars just had a little more Saturday. Heads remained high on the Cavaliers’ side. In reaching the final, they earned 2-1 playoff wins over Loch Raven, Brunswick and Allegany.
“This group of girls has been really supportive,” said Malone, a senior captain. “Even after the losses, we used the losses to build and grow. So just getting this far shows how much work we put in, especially going into the playoffs.”
Said South Carroll coach Andrew Isacco: “I am beyond proud of my kids. They could have mailed it in at the end of the regular season. We had a brutally tough schedule. We fought through the flu, we fought through COVID, we fought through injuries ... and they had the fortitude to just decide in the playoffs that we’re not done.”
Goals: SC — Malone, own; F — King 3
Assists: SC — Mo. Guynn; F — Ajello, Richard, Farally
Saves: SC — Inglesby 7; F — Rhinehart 3
Half: SC, 2-1