Severna Park's field hockey team may not have played up to its potential in yesterday's state semifinal matchup with Westminster, but it got the job done.
The second-seeded Falcons scored the contest's only goal at the 17-minute mark of the first half to claim a 1-0 decision over the Owls at Goucher College.
Severna Park (15-0) now must face top-seeded Bethesda-Chevy Chase (14-1) in Saturday's 11 a.m. state final at Goucher. In yesterday's other game, Bethesda defeated fourth-seeded defending state champion Walter Johnson, 2-1, in a shootout.
"We can play a much more finely tuned game than we did today," said coach Lil Shelton, whose Falcons could capture the school's sixth state field hockey title Saturday. "We played sloppy in the first half, but I think it was nerves. We weren't passing like we normally do, and the stick work wasn't there."
The Falcons were getting beat to the loose balls in the opening 10 minutes of the contest but picked up some momentum near the midway point of the first half.
Severna Park's momentum came to a climax with 13 minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the first half, when senior Amy Dolan fielded a ball at midfield, dribbled the ball inside the circle and put it in the left corner of the cage for the deciding goal.
On the play, which was set up by a long clearing pass from left wing Petra Smeehuyzen, Dolan was flanked by a pair of teammates but was unaware whether they were friend or foe.
"I heard someone behind me, but I didn't see anyone," said Dolan, who made the goal on Severna Park's first shot of the game. "I just cut on it (the shot), and I knew I had it."
Westminster coach Sue Hooper attributed the goal to inexperience at keeper.
"We weren't back on defense, and they had a three-on-one opportunity," she said. "Our goalie (first-year junior Cindy Dietery) had to make a move at the right time to stop it and she didn't. She started coming out a bit too late, and she (Dolan) got it by her.
"If she'd made her move a little earlier, it might have made a difference, but it's hard to tell."
Westminster played the Falcons even in the first half. Both teams made five shots on goal before the intermission, and the Owls received three corner opportunities to Severna Park's one.
Westminster (13-1-1) had two long-goal opportunities in the second half but couldn't capitalize. The Falcons controlled the ball most of the second half and had their share of shots on goal -- five -- but couldn't add to their lead.
"I thought we played much better in the second half, but we just couldn't seem to score," Shelton said. "We always play better in the second half, after I get to them at halftime."
Severna Park sophomore goalie Rachel Kidwell finished the game with five saves, but Shelton said senior midfielder Shannon Fitzgerald, whose fine defensive play foiled several Owl drives, deserved credit for helping preserve the shutout.
"Shannon would get my vote for player of the game," she said.