Most field hockey coaches never want to see a game decided on sudden-death penalty strokes, but Fallston's Alice Puckett wouldn't mind.
Puckett has a defensive weapon nobody else has -- goalie Tammy Kloiber. The senior has never allowed a goal on a penalty stroke.
Kloiber, who seems to thrive on pressure, saved two in sudden death in last year's state semifinal game. She also saved one during regulation of the championship game to lead the Cougars to their third straight Class 2A title.
Tuesday, Kloiber gave a stellar performance, saving 19 shots against Bel Air. After a 0-0 tie in double overtime, Fallston and Bel Air remained the only undefeated teams in the county.
But Friday, the Cougars dropped their season finale to C. Milton Wright. Kloiber had seven saves but allowed one goal as Fallston's record dropped to 8-1-1 overall and 5-1-1 in the league. The loss gave Bel Air the county title outright.
If Tuesday's game had gone to sudden-death strokes, which are not used in county play, the Cougars might still have a share of the title.
"They say it's not fair to the goalie," explained Puckett. "But is it fair for a team to go into regionals never having played them? You play them in states and regionals so why not in county games?"
That's easy for Puckett to say. She has Kloiber.
For three years, Kloiber has been one of the premier goalies in the Baltimore metro area. As a sophomore, she earned honorable mention All-Metro status. (There was no All-Metro field hockey team last year.)
This year has been her best yet. Kloiber has allowed only four goals -- two in the first game of the season. She has recorded seven shutouts.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of her career came against Bel Air. The Bobcats had scored 40 goals in their first 11 games, but they found it impossible to put the ball past Kloiber.
In the second half of regulation, Bel Air outshot the Cougars 12-0, but Kloiber had nine saves including four spectacular diving blocks.
"She's excellent," said Bel Air coach PhyllisHemmes. "You don't find many girls willing to dive headfirst for theball. If she hadn't taken those dives, a couple balls would have been in the goal."
For Kloiber, 16, the decision to become a goalie three years ago was an easy one. "I never thought I would make the team as a freshman going against sophomores. I thought if I play goalie they'll have to put me on the team," said Kloiber, president of her senior class.
It didn't take Puckett long to see star potential in the combination of Kloiber's natural ability, hard work and determination. Even as a freshman, Kloiber moved well in the bulky equipment and she wasn't afraid of the ball.
With each game and summer camp, Kloiber improved.
Earlier this year, she was accepted into the U.S. Field Hockey Association's Futures Program. A program to identify and nurture young talent, the program brought players together once a month at the University of Maryland to play games and receive coaching.
In addition to her quick reflexes and aggressive style, Kloiberalso has excellent technique. This year, she has refined her technique even more and is better with her stick.
The most difficult partof the game for Kloiber, also the Cougars lacrosse goalie, has been the mental side. She is working hard not to get upset every time she allows a goal. Puckett and assistant coach Vicki Wright have helped.
"Coach Wright said I was taking the fun out of the game," said Kloiber. "I was thinking too much about what I was doing and not lettingit happen naturally like I should. Sometimes if you think too much, you scare yourself."
Kloiber still doesn't like to give up a goal.
"She's a perfectionist," said Puckett. "She probably gets shot at200 times a day in practice. If she lets one go in, she gets mad at herself. To her, it's always competitive."