The two-time defending state champion Severna Park girls soccer team may not be as dominant as last year's version, which outscored the opposition, 95-3, but coach Joyce Stefancik says the Falcons are just as dangerous.
Local and out-of-county foes alike would agree.
Severna Park (13-0) is one of eight county soccer or field hockey teams to advance to the region finals. The Falcons can capture their seventh regional championship with a victory Saturday over the winner of last night's Broadneck-Chesapeake game.
"We've got an abundance of people who can score, but no superstars," said Stefancik, whose team has garnered the last three county titles, and six overall.
Using Severna Park's recent 7-0 victory over North County as an example, Stefancik said, "Seven different girls scored in that game. That's very pleasing. The team isn't as strong as last year's, but the ability is spread out."
Fifteen of the 20 Falcons have scored this season, led by senior forwards Betsy Anderson (15 goals, seven assists) and Michelle Cope (nine goals, two assists).
A pair of juniors, forward Cathi Hanson (seven goals, three assists) and midfielder Nicki Cecere (six goals, five assists), and freshman midfielder Erin Wilde (five goals, three assists) also have contributed substantially.
With Tuesday's 5-0 victory over fourth-seeded Catonsville, the Falcons recorded their eighth shutout, and the 31st overall for senior goalkeeper Tami Riley.
The Severna Park defense, featuring stopper Tina Riley (two goals, two assists), sweeper Ellen Westcoat, Lisa Cope and freshman Carrie Budzinski, has given up just five goals.
"The kids know the pressure (to win a state championship) is there, but if any team is going to beat us, they're going to have to work for it," Stefancik said. "We don't get fancy, we just win with the basics."
Win, indeed. Stefancik's career record is 118-28-3, including a 43-0-1 mark since losing to Meade in overtime in the 1987 Region IV finals. The Falcons have won 37 straight.
The following is a look at the remaining region finals scheduled for this week:
Class 4A Region IV -- Broadneck (3) at North County (1)
Ever since Broadneck dropped a 2-1 decision to North County Oct. 12, Bruins coach Kevin McMullen has been hoping for a rematch.
His wish will come true Saturday night, when the third-seeded Bruins meet the top-seeded Knights in a battle for the Class 4A Region IV title.
"We're excited about getting the opportunity to play them again," said McMullen, whose team nipped defending Region IV champion Severna Park, 2-1, in Tuesday's semifinals at Anne Arundel Community College. "We were disappointed in the outcome of the first game, and we're just glad we have another chance."
The rematch McMullen was hoping for was not determined until the Bruins claimed a 6-3 decision over the Falcons in the shootout that followed two scoreless overtime periods.
"A big factor (Tuesday) night was that we played in four double-overtime games during the regular season and it helped our conditioning," McMullen said. "When we found ourselves in that position (Tuesday) night, it was nothing new."
Coach Steve Malone's North County Knights (12-1) reached Saturday's showdown in similar fashion, needing a shootout to edge No. 4 LaPlata of Charles County, 3-2.
"We expected a close game from LaPlata. I don't know how they would do if they played (4A county competition) day in and day out, but they definitely showed that they belonged in the playoffs," said Malone.
The Knights will try to slow a Broadneck squad that scored 16 goals in its last four regular-season games. Specifically, they will have to contain defender-turned-forward Matt Weimer, who netted eight of those 16 goals, and striker Rich Aftoora, the school's all-time leading scorer with 28 goals and 12 assists.
"We've been playing strong soccer for the past three weeks and I think we're peaking at the right time," said McMullen, whose teams have won two regional championships. "It should be a close game and the team that wins will be the team that gets a break.
"Last time we played they got the break and they won. We just want to play hard and put ourselves in a position to win."
Malone said, "They (Broadneck) are playing as good as anyone in the county right now. This will definitely be our toughest game of the season."
Class 3A Region IV -- South River (2) at McDonough (1)
Coach Greg Carroll and the South River boys soccer team have learned that the road to the state playoffs runs through some rough terrain in Charles County.
The Seahawks (9-3-1) survived the first leg of the journey by downing third-seeded Thomas Stone in overtime Tuesday, 3-2, and now must face top-seeded McDonough in the Class 3A Region IV championship.
After falling behind, 2-1, in the first half of Tuesday's semifinal, the No. 2 Seahawks rallied after intermission and forced the game into overtime. South River senior striker Mike Doherty then scored the game-winner seven minutes into the extra period.