The ponytails are saved.
Every starter on Bel Air's field hockey team will still sport a ponytail next week, thanks to Wednesday's 1-0victory over archrival C. Milton Wright.
Early in the season, Bel Air coach Phyllis Hemmes jokingly gave the Bobcats a little incentive to keep their winning streak alive. TheBobcats have never lost to the Mustangs in the 12-year history of their rivalry.
"I told the kids they'd all have to get haircuts if they lost to C. Milton Wright. I have the ponytail brigade," said Hemmes, the Bobcats' coach for 20 years.
The Bobcats (8-0 and ranked No. 1 by The Sun) didn't need the extra incentive to fire them up for the contest against their archrivals. But they did need a little luck.
The Bobcats dominated the game, but they have one fluke goal to thank for preserving their tresses.
Michelle Thomas got credit fora first-half score that actually caromed off a defenders' stick pastdiving Mustangs goalie Sarah Sloop.
C. Milton Wright's defense, which played superbly the entire game, set up the Bel Air goal with a couple of misdirected save attempts.
Bel Air's scoring drive started with a pass into the striking circle. The ball angled sharply off a defenders' stick crossing in front of the cage. Thomas shot toward the left corner, where Sloop (eight saves) probably would have stopped it. But the ball clipped another defenders' stick and careened intothe opposite corner.
Bel Air needed that little bit of luck, because the Mustangs' defense wasn't giving them anything. The Bobcats had 17 corners in the game and didn't score on a single one. They outshot the Mustangs, 21-6.
"Their defense was just outstanding," said Bel Air midfielder Amy Sullivan, who had many shots on corners. "AbbyWalls is really good. She stopped almost everything. They played very well on the corners."
Walls, a senior center back, anchored the Mustangs' defensive stand, but the Mustangs (4-2 overall, 2-1 league)also got strong performances from links Julie Jakum and Carrie Supik, backs Amanda Sherman, Kristen Nelson and Jenna Yasalonis and sweeper Julie Potter.
Even with all those seniors on defense, Mustangs coach Kathy Breymaier was worried about the Bobcats' quick-strike ability on attack.
"I told my defense, 'We're in trouble if they get acorner,' but we really concentrated on defense. We changed our strategy and played with one girl down extra on defense, and I think that helped," said Breymaier.
Late in the game, Breymaier pulled the extra girl off the defense to put more emphasis on attack. The Mustangshad a strong push in the late minutes, but they ran into a defense that proved just as strong as their own.
Sullivan, Caryn Gural and Shelley Paradise led the goal-line stand for the Bobcats. Goalie BethDail had one of her four saves in the final minute.
The Bobcats also got strong defensive performances from Carly Bivens, Kellum Comerand Danielle Newell.
This week, Bel Air will face Aberdeen and North Harford before
entertaining Fallston in the regular-season finale. Last year, Fallston edged the Bobcats in the final to take the county title.
In the postseason, however, the Bobcats could face the Mustangs again.
For the past four years, the two teams have met in the Class 3A regional playoffs. If they meet this year, the Mustangs hope finally to end the streak.
"We played a great game, and wecan only get better," said Walls. "And I think it's about time we win."