Before yesterday's Class 4A Region IV semifinal field hockey clash between Broadneck and Chesapeake, several Chesapeake players lined up and whacked practice penalty flicks against the field's surrounding fence.
After battling to a scoreless tie in a regular-season game with the Bruins, the Cougars had high hopes for at least a repeat overtime game and a possible victory.
Forward Michelle Leonard (four goals) quickly erased any of the Cougars' hopes as Coach Phoebe Kelly unleashed her in a new offense that produced a 5-2 victory for Broadneck.
The Bruins jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, and after that the outcome was never in doubt.
"We worked all week on a particular style geared to improve the speed of our game," said Kelly, whose squad improved to 11-1-1 and earned the right to play in tomorrow's regional championship game against Severna Park. "We made a few changes to open up the offense. Teams were keying on (Krissy Borradaile), and we wanted to show that there are others on this team who can score."
For starters, Kelly moved Leonard from middle forward to the right wing position, where she could benefit from the Bruins' crisp, controlled passing game.
Leonard, Borradaile and Rebecca Fink exploited the midfield and shredded the Cougars' defense. They made the most of their six on-goal shots for a 4-0 halftime lead.
"I don't think they were ready for us this time," said Leonard, who raised her season totals to seven goals and nine assists. "I'm usually the one giving the assists, but today I was able to get a better angle on the ball. We were really getting our hits off."
Leonard converted passes from teammate Liz Piazza at the three-minute mark and Heidi Joy with five minutes left in the first half. She also collected a rebound of her own shot 10 minutes into the game and put it past Bruins keeper Stacey Matcuk.
Borradaile (nine goals, three assists) scored the game's second goal off a penalty stroke just six minutes into the game.
Led by Kristen Reichardt, Jen Chapman, Daniele Blackely and Tricia Frary, the Bruins' defense was playing as tough as it had all year -- and it allowed just four goals during regular season.
Keeper Amy Foster had recorded 10 shutouts during the regular season and -- with most of the starters pulled in favor of junior varsity players to start the second half -- it looked as though Foster would get her 11th.
Only Annapolis (a 2-1 victory) and Severna Park (a 3-0 loss) scored on Foster, who had zero on-goal shots fired at her and did not have to make a save in the game.
But the Cougars came on in the second half with seven penalty corners and four shots. They got two second-half goals from Marlene Pyles and Amy Jakubowski against junior varsity keeper Rachel Sassi (three saves).
Leonard, however, scored her fourth goal with seven minutes left to quell any hopes of a comeback.
The pre-game atmosphere bore some similarities to the Cougars' triple-overtime regional victory over the Bruins last year -- right down to the surprisingly comfortable temperatures.
Chesapeake brought a 6-3-3 record into the game, just like last year.
Broadneck, 10-1 this season, was 10-2 a year ago.
Chesapeake's hopes were high, but the Bruins' level of play was "much higher," as Cougars coach Jerry Raab said after the game, holding her palm flat high above her head for emphasis.
"They were just heads and tails above us today," said Raab, whose squad ended last season with a 7-4-3 record after losing its regional championship game to Severna Park.
"They were quicker, moved the ball better than us and just really were the better team all-around. We hadn't practiced well all week and it showed today. I'm just pleased that were were able to come back and score."