Even in its most comfortable environment, the Severna Park girls soccer team found itself treading on unfamiliar ground Saturday afternoon.
The top-seeded Falcons (16-0) trailed Oakland Mills, 1-0, early in the second half of the 4A-3A state final at Arundel High. It marked the first time all season that the two-time defending state champions were scored upon first.
But Severna Park retaliated with two goals less than three minutes apart, allowing the Falcons to hold off the Scorpions, 2-1, and claim a third consecutive state title.
"We were expecting them to come right back," said Scorpions midfielder Mia Dammen. "We figured once we scored, they would go even harder.
"We never even expected to get this far," Dammen added. "We started 0-2 and we were underdogs in every game we played. We're just so proud of ourselves. My girls worked their butts off."
Severna Park's Betsy Anderson said: "I thought we could pull it out, but we had to give it everything we had."
And with good reason.
Oakland Mills was minus two key players due to injuries -- senior Kim Gove and sophomore Tyann Blissett. But potent scorers Dammen and Stefanie Magro (14 goals, five assists) remained a tough challenge.
Dammen, who had 11 goals and eight assists this year, forced Severna Park senior keeper Tami Riley to make a diving save with four minutes left.
She had missed wide left with two earlier attempts, and was largely responsible for Oakland Mills' final 16-12 advantage in shots.
"We didn't work hard enough for a goal at the end," Dammen said. "We shot too early, and the keeper was right there."
Said Oakland Mills coach Cynthia Odell: "We were trying to mark up on them and we were trying to put a lot more pressure on them so we could get the ball in the goal. It's as simple as that."
"I thought it was a good game, a well-played game," she added. "I'm really proud that my team was here."
Severna Park coach Joyce Stefancik was curious to see how her players, accustomed as they are to being at the head of any score, would react to second-class status in the game.
"Maybe they decided,'We better put one in there,' " she said.
Better yet, make it two. Seniors Emily Vandergrift and Michelle Cope retaliated in rapid fashion to secure the Falcons' 40th straight victory.
They are unbeaten in their last 47 games.
"If anything, I think they reacted in a positive way. It pumped them up," Stefancik said of the one-goal deficit. "The kids answered well."
Junior forward Danette Lemerise stuffed in a rebound of a shot off the crossbar by Kristen Miller to give Oakland Mills the lead just 2 minutes, 49 seconds into the second half.
The Scorpions (13-3) managed only one shot, which sailed harmlessly over the net, during the entire first half.
Severna Park would answer at 5:10 when Vandergrift registered her third goal of the season.
Oakland Mills keeper Jenny Golding came sliding out of the net to jar the ball from Betsy Anderson. But Falcons' sophomore Stephanie Roberts was trailing and alertly passed to an open Vandergrift.
Golding didn't make the same daring move on a Cope breakaway, choosing instead to stay back after Anderson's pass along the right side. Cope, a senior forward, had ample time to set herself before drilling a shot barely inside the left post.