Greg Helms maintained, heading into yesterday's matchup with Severna Park, that his Arundel girls soccer team had everything to gain and nothing to lose in battling the Falcons.
"If Severna Park beats us, it's business as usual, but if we beat them, it's a headline," he said. "The pressure is building on Severna Park with its unbeaten streak. They know they're on top, and they know everyone is trying to knock them down."
Well, it wasn't easy, but it was business as usual yesterday for the Falcons, as they soared past the homestanding Wildcats, 3-1, to remain perched atop the 4A League, riding a 5-0 record and a 36-game unbeaten streak.
"We did an excellent job of passing the ball and moving it up, but the only thing we couldn't seem to do was finish," said Severna Park coach Joyce Stefancik, whose Falcons scored only three goals on 35 attempts.
"I think our kids played very, very well, and if some of those shots would have fallen, obviously the score would have been a lot different."
The Falcons, two-time defending Class 4A-3A state champions, controlled the ball a majority of the first half while outshooting the Wildcats 17-1.
Arundel junior goalkeeper Michelle Harrison literally had her hands full throughout the first 40 minutes and accumulated nine saves.
Severna Park's barrage of shots paid off nine minutes and 15 seconds into the contest when senior Betsy Anderson rolled one past Harrison, courtesy of a crisp assist pass from Michelle Cope.
The Falcons continued to put pressure on Harrison and the tiring Wildcat defense but failed to rattle the nets until the 37th minute of the period. At that point, freshman Erin Wylde followed up a Cope shot that bounced out of Harrison's hands.
Arundel headed to its net at the half trailing 2-0.
The Wildcats appeared as though they were a different ball club when they took the field in the second half, as they beat the Falcons to the loose ball and kept it down around the Severna Park goal.
The Wildcats were rewarded for their persistence 10:26 into the half, when Maria Mackey's shot deflected off the crossbar and bounced into the net to pull Arundel to within one, 2-1.
"It's the first time we scored on them in three years, so it was nice," said Helms, who later called the defeat a moral victory.
After giving up the goal, the Falcons fought back hard, driving the ball up the field and getting off high percentage shots. On most occasions, the only thing standing in the way of a Severna Park rout was Harrison, who finished the game with 16 saves.
"Michelle just played fantastic," said Helms. "It was definitely the best game she's played in two years. She was in the right place at the right time. Her reactions were good, and she used good judgment."
Stefancik echoed Helm's praise and added, "Their keeper played an excellent, excellent game."
Arundel played its heart out in the waning moments of the goal in an attempt to tie things up, but two shots on goal drifted upward. In their attempt to make something happen, the Wildcats opened things up for Severna Park and allowed Anderson to add one more goal with only six seconds remaining.