If she never plays in another varsity soccer game, North County sophomore Michelle Smith may have lettered with just a few kicks in Saturdays' 3-0 loss at Severna Park.
Smith came off the bench midway through a scoreless first half that was dominated by the three-time Class 4A/3A state champion Falcons, when teammate Martha Hill lofted a cross into the penalty box.
Goalkeeper Alicia Conine appeared to have stopped Hill's volley, but it slipped through her hands and Smith pounced on the opportunity, pounding the ball in for an apparent 1-0 lead.
But the key word here is "apparent." Smith was ruled offsides, and the goal was disallowed.
"When the referee called me offsides, I was so mad," said Smith, whose tally would have been the first for the Knights (0-3-1) infour games.
"I had worked so hard to get up to the goal. Having the first goal of our season taken away -- that just really got me upset," she said.
The Falcons (3-0) won for the 43rd straight time and have a three-year, 49-0-1 record.
The game was one of continuingfrustration for second-year coach Marianne Shultz, whose Knights arejust one loss away from the last year's total in the 7-4-1 season.
Even with the return of senior midfielder Tonya Kolodziejski -- whobadly sprained an ankle in the season-opening 1-0 loss to South River -- the Knights could not sustain a transition. Kolodziejski missed a 4-0 loss to Chesapeake but returned for Tuesday's scoreless tie against Annapolis.
"We had three good runs before that goal was called back and that really took the wind out of our sails. It was devastating," said Shultz, whose Knights missed last year's playoffs by one-hundredth of a point. "To make enough points for the playoffs, we're really going to have to push it in the rest of our games."
For Stefancik, Smith's negated goal briefly conjured memories of last year's2-1 come-from-behind Class 4A/3A state championship victory over Oakland Mills.
The Falcons (16-0) overcame their only deficit of lastseason in that game.
"I thought (Smith's shot) was in the goal, Idon't know what that call was," said Stefancik, whose Falcons outshot the Knights, 33-4, in the game and had a goal of its own disallowedin the second half.
The Falcons finally made its first goal 10 minutes before the end of the half, when junior Amy Carnaggio scored ona pass from senior Nicki Cecere. The game was never in doubt after that. Junior Stephanie Roberts and senior Erin Burkhard gave the Falcons a cushion with goals assisted by senior Sally Montgomery and sophomore Erin Wylde, respectively.
Severna Park has allowed just 16 goals against its last 50 opponents -- including seven last season and a record three goals in 1989. The Falcons have not lost since being downed by Old Mill in the 1987 regionals, and their last tie came against Northeast in 1988.
But the Falcons have replaced their entire defense of a year ago.
Other than senior Conine and fullback CyndiMiller, a senior who saw limited action last season, the back line consists of underclassmen. Sweeper Shelly Seivert and fullback Carrie Budzinski are sophomores and defender Jessica Hines is a freshman.
Still, that fledgling lineup has more than held its own in victoriesover Arundel (a 5-0 win), Broadneck (a 2-1 victory) and the Knights,allowing a combined 18 shots.
"The godsend for us has been ShellySeivert stepping in where Tina Riley (Anne Arundel County Sun 1990 Player of the Year) had been," said Stefancik, who has a 124-28-3 career record. "She really worked hard over the summer, and she's been a dominant player defensively. She's made a 200 percent improvement. She and Carrie Budzinski and that little freshman Jess Hines have been doing a good job."
That has taken pressure off Conine, who replaces Tina's twin sister, Tami Riley, who graduated with 32 career shutouts, including nine last year.
"I guess today, we were a little bitlucky," Stefancik said. "If that goal had counted, it might have really fired their team up."