Like any other coach, Lil Shelton gladly will accept a lopsided victory. But she does love a good struggle now and then.
"My girls need a tough game and we enjoy it, even though it's scary," she said. "It's a good opportunity for my girls to show their skills."
Fortunately for Shelton and the Severna Park field hockey team, Amy Dolan's skills were on display yesterday afternoon.
Dolan's goal with 13 minutes left enabled the visiting Falcons to defeat Chesapeake, 1-0, and remain unbeaten after five games. The Cougars fell to 1-2-1.
"The ball came to me, and I dodged around the goalie and just banged it in. It felt good," said Dolan, a senior striker who came off the bench yesterday in Shelton's rotating system.
Dolan now has three goals and two assists, statistics that are worth bragging about, even if she refuses to boost.
"I guess I'm more modest. I get all happy when I score, but I keep striving to do better," she said.
Cougars coach Jerry Raab said her players especially were looking forward to yesterday's game, and with good reason.
It was Severna Park that handed the Cougars a 2-0 loss in last fall's Class 4A Region IV finals, thus denying Chesapeake a trip to the state playoffs.
As if the Cougars needed further incentive when going against the Falcons.
"My team has no problem getting fired up for Severna Park," Raab said. "We're so close. We're rivals in every sport."
"They're always out to get Severna Park," Shelton said of the Cougars. "We always have a pretty good game."
Like last season, when Chesapeake lost, 1-0, on a Heather Zeni goal in overtime. Then came the regions, and further heartbreak.
"It seems like Severna Park is always shutting us out of the playoffs," Raab said.
Shutting out the Cougars this year has been an all-too-common occurrence.
They now have scored just two goals -- one each by seniors Paula Scheerer and Leigh Ann Green in a season-opening 2-1 win over Old Mill -- in four games. Scheerer's goal came on a penalty stroke.
Graduation took all but two of Chesapeake's offensive starters. Various illnesses then left Raab with a thin bench and tiring players.
Yesterday, midfielders Chi Paschall and Jenny Light were sidelined. A third midfielder, senior captain Marlene Pyles, also was ill, but managed to start.
Raab sensed the Cougars were wearing out in the latter stages of the game.
"They got tired, and they didn't have anybody who could sub for them," she said. "But it was a good game. It was well-played on both sides."
The game was scoreless through one half, with Severna Park taking eight shots, one more than Chesapeake. For the game, the Falcons outshot the Cougars, 16-10.
Chesapeake goalie Stacey Matcuk made six saves in the first half, two in succession against Falcons senior Tricia Gately.
Gately used excellent stickwork to weave through a cluster of Chesapeake defenders, but Matcuk rushed out of the cage and turned her aside.
"She's a softball pitcher and she's not afraid of the ball at all," Raab said of Matcuk, who finished with 13 saves.
"She clears in the air," Shelton said, "which scares the rushing offense. They never knew when she was going to clear that thing right in their face."
Severna Park nearly broke the tie in the opening minute of the second half, when Jennifer Stone fed Katie Woodcock on a penalty corner. But Matcuk came through with a kick save.
After Dolan's goal, the Cougars' Monica Gibson pushed the ball past the Falcon defenders, but Severna Park sophomore keeper Rachel Kidwell made her third save.