that’s what we had been doing consistently for half a season.”
It was the ninth consecutive berth in the state playoffs for the Lions, who finished the season 15-3. Fallston, also 15-3, now in the state final for the second straight year, will face Centur y next week at Stevenson University’s Mustang Field.
Senior Mckenna Blick paced Queen Anne’s with a hat trick, including a freeposition strike off a spin move inside with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining that pulled her team within 7-5. That goal arrived after the Lions were stopped on three straight free positions within 70 seconds — a Kailey Boomer miss high followed by back-to-back saves by Fallston goalie Lexi Rober ts.
The teams were evenly matched through much of the semifinal, a far cry from the region playoffs, where the Lions’ 8-5 win over Southern-Arundel in the East final was by a wide margin the closest game played by either side.
“When we play a good team, we’re not always pouring in goals, it’s about our defense,” Fallston head coach Michael McTeague said. “It’s always important to have tough competition, to know where you stand.”
Added Santos Bates: “I always say we have a bull’seye
on our back, so every game is always tough for us.”
Roberts also snuffed one final attempt at the 1:30 mark on a close-range shot by Queen Anne’s senior Emma Feaga, and the Cougars took possession and burned the remaining clock as a tiring Lions squad gave chase.
“It was key to stop those, because they had the momentum,” Roberts said of the saves on the late free positions and then Feaga’s final shot. “Of f that one goal, it was kind of a letdown, because they brought it within two, but I knew what I had to do — I just had to focus and get us the possession.”
Queen Anne’s only lead was at 1-0, as Blick opened the scoring on a top-shelf, free-position burner past Roberts. Fallston countered with a 5-0 run spanning nearly 20 minutes, seniors Zoe Hulburt and Anna Dennison scoring two goals each and classmate Emily Solak the other on a Dennis dish on a cut to the middle.
“It goes back to the defense,” McTeague said. “It wasn’t like five goals, boomboom-boom-boom-boom, it was over 20 minutes. So, we made stops, came down, we were patient and we did a nice job finding the good opportunities.”
The Cougars’ defense hounded the Lions during the flourish, showing hard doubles and forcing Queen Anne’s to constantly pass around the horn with little
to show for it.
“Our girls were trying to swing it, and they were right in the passing lanes to knock down the passes,” Santos Bates said of Fallston’s defense. “Very aggressive form of defense ... we saw that type of defense against Southern, but we were able to run out of it. For some reason, this team, we weren’t able to run out of it.”
A defining possession took place near the 17-minute mark of the first half, when the Lions repeatedly attempted to slither into scoring range but were rebuffed by Fallston. A long Queen Anne’s pass sailed out of reach at the 14:58 mark, and the Cougars’ Alynne Abney scooped the grounder to reverse the field.
“Our defense was really, really strong,” McTeague said. “Our defense stickhandled really well today.”
Added Blick: “They definitely had a good double that came out on us. They stopped a lot of our passes that help our inside feed, and we get a lot of goals on the inside. I think that really stunted our momentum.”
The Lions finally broke the dry spell with 2:41 remaining before the break, as Feaga’s shot glanced off Roberts’ stick and trickled in to shave Fallston’s lead to 5-2. Queen Anne’s then pulled within two goals shortly after intermission, a low, shovel shot by Blick capping a free-position, set play to make it 5-3.
“I think the big thing was nerves, I think we were a little nervous coming into this game,” Blick said. “We had a game plan of what we wanted to do, but sadly, we just couldn’t get it done on the field.”
Fallston countered with back-to-back strikes that essentially put the game out of reach.
Clearing the ball after the Lions threw it away behind goal, the Cougars went back up by three when Solak followed a saved shot on Sam DeCarlo’s shot from in close, snatching the carom out of the air and redirecting it past Queen Anne’s goalie Emily Karbaum.
The Cougars’ Sarah Dudick made it a four-goal contest, taking a stick to the head but still converting inside at the 12:58 mark.
Fallston finished with a 16-15 edge on shot attempts, but the Lions excelled on grounders (19-13) and draw controls (9-4). The Cougars converted 10 of 11 clears, Queen Anne’s was 7 for 7. Changes loom on the horizon for the Lions, who will graduate 11 seniors, which includes the bulk of the team’s offensive production, not to mention defensive ace Becca Clay and Karbaum.
The Lions, with their sensational nine-year run of state tournament appearances, have always displayed staying power within the Bayside Conference and 2A/1A East region, and once again in 2017 loaded up their regular season with
“We came as far as we could,” Blick said. “The best we could do is come here and show what we have, and sadly we couldn’t make it
to [the state final], but my hopes are high for the future and this program.” Follow me on Twitter @Ayman_StarDem. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org