Just one goal made the difference between first and second place in the Anne Arundel County girls lacrosse league Tuesday night.
Kayla Minton's goal with 3:36 left gave Severna Park a 9-8 victory over No. 11 South River in a back-and-forth defensive struggle that was tied six times.
The Falcons (9-4) are the only team remaining undefeated in the county league. The Seahawks (11-2) have one league loss, so the two will meet again Monday for the county championship at Old Mill at 5 p.m.
That's just fine with Severna Park's Alex Miller, who scored four goals Tuesday night.
"It's always a great game, super fun," the junior midfielder said. "We love playing them. Great competition. They make us better every time we play them."
Playing in the county league and the Class 4A-3A East region, the two often faced each other more than once a year. In 2015, they played four times, and that was the last time South River came away with a win.
The Falcons, with a strong defensive effort led by Mallory Martell, Kate Bray, Kaila Stasulli and Rachel Spilker, earned their six straight win in the series. They've won 10 of the past 11 meetings, and almost all of those games have been within a few goals.
Tuesday's game couldn't have been much closer. Neither team led by more than two goals with both defenses forcing the other's attack to work to find the smallest openings.
The Seahawks, whose only previous loss had been to No. 6 Marriotts Ridge, had the final-two goal lead after they scored three straight to take a 7-5 edge on Alexis Grant's free-position goal with 13:27 to go.
Severna Park answered that with a three-goal run to get the lead back on a Miller free-position goal with 10:41 left.
Falcons goalie Delaney Ott did her best to hold off South River, making one of her four saves on the next series, but Kelsey Winters broke through with 5:41 left to tie the game again, at 8.
Severna Park's Cam Chew won the next draw — an area the Falcons dominated 13-6 with Spilker, Chew and Miller winning most of them.
That draw control presented a quandary for Falcons coach Katilyn Hines, but when Minton saw an opening and went to goal for the eventual game winner, it solved the problem.
"That goal was definitely huge, one that we needed," Hines said. "I was contemplating, 'OK, five minutes left. Do we just stall to make the last shot? What should we do?' And putting that goal in was nice."
It was the second goal of the game for Minton, and Miller said teamwork was the key for the Falcons then as it had been throughout the game.
"We knew we needed one more," Miller said. "We set her up and cleared through and let her go. We count on our teammates and we know they can do it."
Minton's goal didn't quite put the game away. South River's Kelly won the next draw and the Seahawks had plenty of time to tie the game again.
With 2:35 left, however, they turned the ball over and Martell won the ground ball.
Lauren Zinkl's caused turnover got it back for the Seahawks and Madeline Cloyd had a shot that Ott saved with 40 seconds left.
"A South River-Severna Park game is going to be hard right up until the last whistle," Seahawks coach Caroline Cochran said, "so I think both teams played really hard and it really came down to heart at the end. We had some turnovers. We had opportunities to tie the game up and it's always going to be a close one against them."
South River's defense, led by Kelly, Olivia Skinner, Claire McElhenny, Caitlin McGuirk, Kaylee Mia Geist and goalie Carly Mansur (six saves), held the Falcons scoreless for the first 12 minutes of the game. After that the score was tied at 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8.
Goals: SP—Miller 4, Spilker 2, Minton 2, Chew; SR—Cloyd 2, Grant 2, Zinkl, Lenkart, Sullivan, Winters. Assists: SP—Atcheson, Spilker; SR—Winters 3. Saves: SP—Kazmarek 4, Ott 2; SR—Mansur 6. Half: 3-3.