Three Harford County field hockey teams won their regional titles Thursday and now stand just two games away from state championships.
Bel Air, Fallston and Joppatowne all moved into tomorrow's state semifinal games at Goucher College. If they win those, they would move on to Saturday's title games.
Bel Air (13-1) held on to beat Franklin, 1-0, to win its second straight Class 3A, Region III championship. Seeded second behind Calvert, the Bobcats play No. 3 Magruder in their semifinal game tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Liberty got the No. 4 spot.
The Bobcats survived a second-half slump against Franklin (9-3) to earn their second straight trip to the semifinals. Only superb defense, especially from Ledys Valle and Kristen Wagner, held off a late Franklin surge.
Marji Wasson scored midway through the first half on a crossing pass from right wing Sheila Rohe. Rohe intercepted the ball after Franklin goalie Stephanie Zannino had tried to clear a Bobcat hit that came from near midfield.
The Bobcats outshot Franklin, 7-1, in each half, but they gave Franklin plenty of chances in the second half. The Bobcats looked like an entirely different team in the second half, content to play defense almost the entire time.
Franklin applied pressure much of the second half. At one point, it had four straight corners. Strong defense from Valle, Wagner, Amy Sullivan and Robin Veidt held the Indians to one shot in the half despite six corners.
"I guess we thought we had it," Valle said. "We didn't work together very well, and there was some confusion near the end. But I doubt we're going to do it again."
The Bobcats will make their second straight appearance in the state semifinals. This time, they hope to improve on last year's early-round loss.
"Now that we've been in the state tournament once and we know what to expect, I think we'll deal better with it," Valle explained. "Just being there and the whole atmosphere can be a little overwhelming the first time."
Fallston should be right at home at the state tournament. They have won the Class 2A title twice in a row.
Fallston (10-3-1) edged Chesapeake, Baltimore County, 1-0, to win the Class 2A, Region II title. The Cougars will probably play top-seeded Middletown in their semifinal at either 1 or 3 p.m.
"Tournament experience is very important," said Fallston coach Alice Puckett, whose team is making its fourth trip to the semifinals in the last five years. "When we first went in 1986, we had a good team, but they were so overwhelmed with everything. Now we should be a little more relaxed."
The Cougars outshot Chesapeake, 29-3. Many of those shots and the game-winning goal came off 18 corners. Chesapeake goalie Kathy Cooke kept the Bayhawks in the game, stopping 17 shots.
Dawn Bittman scored the goal on an assist from Kerri Guth. Goalie Tammy Kloiber stopped all three Chesapeake shots.
Fallston has come a long way from a 1-2 start to win the county and regional titles.
"Most of the kids who start on the team now weren't starters last year," Puckett said, "so they have something to prove to me and to themselves."
In Class 1A, Joppatowne beat Rising Sun, 1-0, Wednesday to take the Region II title. The Mariners are fourth-seeded and will play No. 1 Easton at 3 p.m. tomorrow. No. 2 Pocomoke faces Francis Scott Key in the other semifinal.
The victory over Rising Sun ended four years of frustration for the Mariners (7-6), who had lost five straight meetings by one goal in overtime. Four of those games knocked the Mariners out of the regional playoffs, which they last won in 1985.
Michele Zaledonis scored the goal on an assist from Carol McDermott with five minutes left in the first half. Freshman goalie Shawna Parker had three saves.
The winners of the semifinals will advance to Saturday's championship games. The Class 1A game will be at 11:30 a.m. at Goucher, followed by the Class 2A and 3A games at 2 p.m.