Bruce Sponsler spoke last week of wishing he could mark at least eight Centennial players in Saturday night's Class 4A/3A state semifinals.
In truth, Old Mill's girls soccer coach knew the one individualwho warranted the most attention was Eagles forward Vicky Brunt.
Centennial coach Rick Pizarro knew the same, so he wasn't surprised to see the Patriots' best marker, junior halfback Cindy Parulis, shadowing Brunt's every move.
And he wasn't surprised by the outcome.
"I didn't think they could hold Brunt down," he said, after thejunior speedster scored twice in fourth-seeded Centennial's 4-0 routof top-seeded Old Mill at Glen Burnie High School.
"Once the gamestarted, she was off and running."
So were the Eagles (15-0), whomanhandled an Old Mill (14-1) team that had seemed immune to such domination.
Brunt's two goals, giving her 15 on the year, came afterthe outcome pretty much had been decided.
Junior Alison Lages poked the ball beyond fallen Old Mill sophomore keeper Jackie Bardelli just 3 minutes, 15 seconds into the game, and senior Corina Riismandelblasted a 25-yarder into the net with less than 14 minutes gone.
"We attacked like I hoped we would. We wanted to get a goal or two quickly," Pizarro said.
With that done, the most intriguing matchup no longer involved the two teams. Instead, much of the focus shifted to Brunt. And to Parulis, who had shut down the county's most prolific scorers all season.
Early in the first half, Brunt sliced through the normally rock-solid Old Mill defense, only to have her shot roll wide left.
But the ease with which she freed herself was an ominous sign.
Later in the half, Centennial freshman Shara Boonshaft sent a pass ahead to Brunt, who was streaking toward the goal with Patriots junior sweeper Lori Lynch in hot pursuit. But Bardelli (four saves) --ed out of the goal to reach the ball first.
Another scoringopportunity arose soon after when Brunt maneuvered past Parulis and Lynch, only to have Bardelli again step forward, this time kicking the ball away.
Now being tested more severely than at any time this season, Bardelli abandoned her post once more to challenge Centennial's Natalie Rich on the left wing. But the junior midfielder passed toBrunt in front of an open net, resulting in an easy goal and a 3-0 Eagles lead with seven minutes still remaining in the half.
"They had a great short passing game," Lynch said.
And a great player whowasn't through making her own mark.
Brunt had two more chances before scoring with 29:47 left in the game, blowing past everyone -- including Bardelli -- to tap in the game's final goal.
Sponsler gaveParulis a short breather, replacing her with junior Kim Wimbrow. ButCentennial already had taken the wind out of all the Patriots.
"We gave it our best shot; Centennial just played much better than we did," Sponsler said.
"They were on the ball too quick. They beat usto the ball tonight."
When asked if the Eagles had done anything to surprise his team, Sponsler said, "No surprises at all. They were just relentless. They did all the things we thought they could do."
Brunt certainly did.
"Cindy is great defensively one-on-one, a great marker," Sponsler said. "But Brunt is the kind of player who, when she's on, you can't stop her."
No one needed to tell Parulis that. She spent 80 minutes learning firsthand.
"She was really good," Parulis said. "I don't think I did as good a job as I could, though. I tried, but it wasn't my best day.
"It just didn't seem like itwould be one of my days."
She wasn't alone. All the Patriots struggled against a multitalented team that proved it belonged atop The Sun's girls soccer poll.
Maybe next year, that spot will be reserved for Parulis and the rest of the Patriots.
"We have a young team," Sponsler said. "We lose four starters. We'll try to fill the gaps and come back and take care of some unfinished business."