Lil Shelton has seen how familiarity breeds complacency, rather thancontempt.
What the veteran Severna Park field hockey coach wonders is how her team will respond to an opponent it hasn't faced in a year.
The top-seeded Falcons (15-0) and second-seeded Westminster (14-1) vie for the 4A state championship at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Goucher College, comfortable surroundings for both squads.
They met in last year's state semifinals, with Severna Park pulling out a 1-0 win. But Bethesda-Chevy Chase denied the Falcons their sixth championship, andfirst since 1988, with a 2-1 victory in the final.
Westminster won state titles in 1976, 1984 and 1985.
"I think the fact that theybeat us last year will be a big motivation," said Owls co-coach Brenda Baker.
The Falcons are coming off a 1-0 victory over Old Mill in Monday's semifinals. They held a lopsided advantage in shots, but failed to score until 5 minutes, 48 seconds remained, when senior Jen Stone converted a pass from Diane Parisi.
It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Severna Park taking a 2-1 decision in September, and Shelton believes having a county foe on the opposite side affected her players' intensity.
"They played Old Mill during the regular season, and I guess it's just a mental thing," she said. "A lot of this game is just mental anyway.
"When they get there Saturday and see Westminster, I think their mental preparation will be at its peak."
She then adds, "It better be."
The Owls have been scored upon only three times all year, including once inthe playoffs.They've posted 10 shutouts, and their lone defeat was by a 1-0 score to Liberty -- their first regular-season loss in two years, breaking a 28-game streak.
"I don't know if it's the defense or the goalie that's their strong point," Shelton said. "If it's the goalie, we can do a lot to beat her, like scooping and flicking. The ball doesn't have to stay on the ground. If it's the defense, then wehave to work on fast breaks and penetrating into the circle."
It appears to be a little of both. Starting keeper Cindy Dieterly has allowed two goals, while having to stop only 18 shots.
The Owls' most productive scorer is Judie Marcus, with a co-Carroll County-leading20 points (eight goals, four assists). Nicole Batten has four goals,and Misti Wagner has contributed three goals and one assist.
Westminster edged Magruder of Montgomery County, 1-0, in the state semifinals, when a late first-half shot from Jill Sisson deflected off a Colonels defender and onto the stick of teammate Aurora Brown, who redirected the ball past goalie Becky Pellett.
The Owls will have to take similar advantage of whatever opportunities arise against SevernaPark, which has scored 41 goals, including 16 goals from Stone.
If Westminster decides to key on Stone, Shelton said, "others can pickup the slack."
"It's hard to double-team in field hockey. If you do, you're leaving someone in the circle wide open. You can only markone at a time," she said.
"(Stone) seems to be good at eluding defenses and getting in there where she can get her stick on the ball."
So are her teammates. Junior Gabrielle Cormier has six goals and five assists, and senior Carolyn Plant adds six goals and one assist.Junior Liz Wilson has three goals, as nine Falcons have scored and 10 have provided assists this year.
Senior midfielder Lisa Hetrick (three goals, five assists) is expected to play tomorrow despite suffering torn ligaments in her right middle finger in Monday's game.
"She's been working out a little bit," Shelton said. "She's tough. She's not going to sit on the sidelines."
Hetrick further solidifiesa position Shelton calls "very powerful," also an accurate description of the Falcons' defensive starters.
Seniors Suzanne Leavitt, Sally Morgan and Chris Flack and junior Jenny Collins make up a first-team unit that Shelton said has permitted "two or three" goals all season.
"Their stick work is great, their focus is great and they back each other up. They deny (junior keeper Rachel Kidwell) from touching the ball," she said.
"I'm expecting good stick work and good passing from Westminster. Last year's game was fast-paced and exciting.That's what you expect from a state final."