Neither an hour-long lightning delay nor C. Milton Wright's determined defense could keep Fallston's girls lacrosse team from winning itsfourth straight county championship.
The Cougars (11-0, 6-0 league) capped off their regular season with a 7-6 win over C.M. Wright Wednesday night. Meghan Williams scored the game-winner with just over four minutes left.
"You kind of get spoiled after a while, and you wonder when the bubble is going to burst," said Fallston coach Nancy Ferguson. "I was nervous as could be for this, because a county loss would have meant we would have shared the title."
Instead, the Cougars not only wonthe county title outright, but they also improved their chances of nailing down the top-seeded spot for the Class 1A/2A state playoffs that begin Friday.
The only team standing between the Cougars and that top-seeded spot is C.M. Wright. The two teams have a non-league rematch Tuesday night at C.M. Wright.
Ferguson and the Cougars know the second game will be as much of a battle as the first. They also know the Mustangs (5-4, 3-3) have some extra incentive the second timearound.
"They're mad," said Cindy Jenkins, Fallston's sophomore playmaker. "They came so close to upsetting us. They know we want to go through the season undefeated, and they want to spoil our record. They think they can get us next time, because they were so close this time."
Although they never led in the game, the Mustangs used excellent defense to hold off Fallston's potent, balanced offense. The Mustangs also used their transition game to set up scoring opportunities.
Fallston took a 4-1 lead midway through the first half on Jenkins' consecutive goals and a fourth by Jenny Haslbeck.
Kelly MacNeill had tied the game at 1-1, but the Mustangs didn't get another goaluntil Meredith Peters made it 4-2. Haslbeck answered with a goal forthe Cougars. Leigh Biggerman cut the lead to 5-3 at halftime.
Theintermission turned into a one-hour delay. When lightning bolts lighted up the sky, officials sent both teams into the school to wait outthe storm. Both Ferguson and Mustangs coach Kathy Breymaier wanted to get the game in, so once the thunderstorm moved out, the teams moved back onto the field.
Jenkins opened up the half scoring her fourth goal on a feed from Haslbeck to give the Cougars a 6-3 lead.
Then, the Mustangs started to bounce back. Center MacNeill controlled the next two draws, setting up two quick goals. Meredith Peters scoredon a free-position, and Carrie Supik rolled the crease for another goal less than a minute later. That cut the Cougars' lead to 6-5 with 19:36 to go.
The Cougars had several chances to pull away, outshooting the Mustangs 14-9 in the half, but the Wright girls played outstanding defense. The Mustangs got strong performances especially from MacNeill, Biggerman and Rachel Phillips. Goalie Sara Sloop, who finished with eight saves, also played aggressively with five saves in thesecond half.
Biggerman picked up a ground ball from an errant Fallston pass at midfield and took it to the goal to tie the game with 5:17 left.
The Mustangs' celebration was short, because Williams scored the game-winner a minute later.
Fallston also played strong defense, especially in the final minutes. Goalie Tammy Kloiber (eight saves) preserved the victory by stopping Phillips' free-position shotwith 2:20 to go.
C.M. Wright got the ball back only once in the final two minutes, but Fallston's Denise Sarver stole it after a nice check.
The Cougars moved the ball quickly down field and stalled away the final minute.
"If I could have broken that stall I would have called a timeout and set up something," said Breymaier. "But we couldn't get the ball from them.
"We played very well. Our defense was exceptional. We kept everybody covered and we double-teamed. We will come back from this, and we're going to beat them on our field."
The rematch begins at 6:45 Tuesday night.