Chesapeake's soccer goalkeeper Cindy Herbert prides herself on her ability to get a bead on an incoming shot.
Entering Saturday's Class 4A/3A state semifinal game against third-seed Dulaney (12-2-1), shehad given up just eight goals with as many shutouts.
But in a 1-0 loss for the second-seed Cougars (12-2-1), Herbert gave up her ninth goal. It was a high, downward curling 20-yarder fromthe Lions' Frances Forcellese with 8:11 left in the first half.
And the senior seemed more amazed at the shot's wind-aided trajectory than frustrated at her inability to stop it from going in.
"It wasan awesome shot. I barely got a hand on it," said Herbert, standing on the Glen Burnie High football field after the game. "I had a hand on it, but I just watched it go in after it hit my hand. I mean, I sat there and watched it come right off of my hand, barely hit the poleand still go in."
The Lions' scoring leader, sophomore Aimee Vaughan (22 goals, 11 assists), set up the play after receiving the ball with her back to the goal in the penalty box. She passed the ball to Meg Truxel, whose shot deflected off a Chesapeake defender before rolling out to Forcellese, to Herbert's left.
"Jamie Long was supposed to be marking (Vaughan), but we had just made a substitution to give Long a breather," said Chesapeake coach Lin Sullivan, whose Cougars, ranked fourth in the metro area, had an 8-3 shots on goal advantagein the second half (16-11 for the game).
"When you get a goal down, you have to push," Sullivan added. "But Dulaney went into a defensive position. We'd probably have done the same thing if we'd had a one-goal lead, but we did everything we could do, and we couldn't get it in the net."
That was largely due to Lions' goalkeeper Courtney McClelland (nine saves), who intercepted crossing passes and "coveredthe angles well," according to Sullivan. Normally a forward, McClelland, a senior, has played in the goal for the playoffs. "She was the difference in the game," Sullivan said.
"We just came in and played the game we've been practicing all season, which was to work a lot of give-and-goes," said Dulaney coach Evey Quinn.
In next Saturday's championship game at Arundel High, the Lions face fourth-seed Centennial, a 4-0 winner over top-seed Old Mill.
"Tonight, we knew we wouldn't be able to put the ball in the air very much, because it wasa little windy, especially in the second half, when we were going against the wind," Quinn said. "That's why we wanted to go that way in the first half, we wanted the wind with us and hopefully score a goal, because we knew it would be more difficult as the game went on."
That it was, as Chesapeake's speedy front-line players like junior Stacey Necessary (10 goals, six assists), seniors Kim Davis (seven, three) and Becky Thiele (five, six) and freshman Melissa Wagner (five, one) stepped up the pressure in the second half.
But Quinn credited fullbacks Kim Duklewski and Heather Truxel and sweeper Brett Zimmerman for continually turning back the Cougars' attack. Zimmerman's effort was particularly valiant: She continued to play while protecting a hyperextended right elbow. She injured her arm after a hard fall just 10 minutes into the game.
"I told my players instead of every ball being a 50-50 ball, make it a 75-25 ball in our favor," Quinn said. "I told our defenders to step up as much as they could and tightenup close to the goal -- don't allow them to turn and send the ball 20 yards. We didn't want long balls coming down the field. We wanted to shut that down and also contain them on the wings."
If you ask Necessary, the Lions were successful at executing Quinn's strategy.
"They were constantly on us," she said. "One man marked me and the other one stayed back, so we had to keep moving around. It was hard for me to get away. Once I got away from one, the other one was on me."
With six minutes left in the game, Sullivan replaced Herbert withsenior midfielder Tracy Starke, using Starke as a field player in the hopes of salvaging the game. The Cougars' penetration produced fivecorner kicks, but still no goal.
"We were trying to get it out tothe wings and cross it over to the center," Necessary said. "Things were working well, and we had a lot of opportunities to score. It's just that none of them dropped in."
With just over five minutes left, Necessary was able to get behind the Lions' defense in a one-on-one, with McClelland just 5 yards away. But Necessary rushed her shot, batting what might have been the equalizer directly into McClelland'shands.
With two minutes left, Wagner also gained the inside position on the defense.
Wagner was just a few feet away when McClelland grabbed a volley that came from Chesapeake's Nancy Yeager out on right. McClelland fell down in front of the goal, briefly losing control of the ball. But Wagner was just a step too slow and McClelland recovered to smother the ball.
"We had a lot of shots, we just couldn't put it in," Herbert said. "Their goalie was awesome, but so was our season. Only two losses? I can live with that. I love it."