Carroll County dominated the early years of the state field hockey tournament.
In the first 11 years of the event, which started in 1976, Carroll teams won 12 titles, including at least one each year except 1979.
But over the last four years, the county had faltered a bit. Since 1987, the best Carroll could do was a Class 1A co-championship withFrancis Scott Key in 1989.
Oh, plenty of county teams had made the tournament since then, but none had won. Last year, three Carroll teams qualified, but all three bowed out in the semifinals.
It's not like folks were saying hockey in Carroll had suddenly turned ugly, but county teams were a notch or two below where they had been, relative to the rest of the state, in earlier years.
So Carroll's two state championships Saturday at Goucher College in Towson -- one surprising, the other controversial -- restored some of the luster to a program that had tarnished ever so slightly in recent years.
South Carroll's 1-0 victory over Bethesda-Chevy Chase was a stunner. The Barons were last year's Class 4A champs, had not given up a goal in 15 wins after dropping to Class 3A this year, and had a 56-2-2 record over the past five regular seasons, including two state titles.
SouthCarroll, meanwhile, had struggled a bit after winning state titles in 1980 and 1983, though it did reach the regional finals last year, before losing to Liberty.
But the Cavaliers managed a 1-0 victory, even though B-CC dominated the game.
The game was reminiscent of South Carroll's regional semifinal victory over Howard earlier in the season.
In that game, South Carroll held a commanding 22-1 edge inshots and a 22-0 penalty-corner bulge but trailed, 1-0, until Kim Post tipped in the tying goal with just one second to play. The Cavaliers eventually won the game in overtime.
The Barons were in the same situation Saturday -- only they never managed the tying goal. They outshot the Cavs, 22-2, and had a commanding edge in penalty corners,but couldn't get the ball past South Carroll goalie Brandi Miller.
"We gave them one uncontested shot, and you can't afford, in a gamelike this, to give up that one shot," said Barons coach Mike Carroll.
Both teams finished the season at 15-1 and, fittingly, South Carroll's only loss was to Westminster.
Westminster's 1-0 victory over Severna Park of Anne Arundel County in the Class 4A championship game Saturday was not nearly as surprising.
True, Severna Park had been ranked ahead of the Owls all season in The Sun field hockey poll,but both teams have been among the best in the state for many years.Westminster won the first state crown in 1976 and has won two more since, while the Falcons have five first-place trophies.
But the lone goal was about as controversial as they come.
The Owls drove the ball downfield right after the opening face-off, and Nicole Batten knocked in the game's only score. The controversy arose over just howBatten knocked it in.
Severna Park coach Lil Shelton and goalie Rachel Kidwell both said the ball bounced of Batten's leg, not her stick, an illegal play in hockey.
"We just couldn't score, but it would have been even up, and we would have gone into overtime had that not happened," Shelton said.
"It's tough to accept this. When you get to this level, the scores are very low. Usually, 1-0 is going to take the game."
Kidwell had a front-row seat to the action and saidshe'd never dreamed the goal would stand.
"I didn't know it was agoal," said the junior. "I thought that the ref would have seen it. I didn't know it counted until halftime.
"I saw everyone cheer, but I thought it was obvious that it went off her leg," Kidwell said. "I saw it go off of (teammate) Lisa Hetrick's leg, and then it went off her (Batten's) shinguard and in. She had her stick up, so there wasno way she could have hit it in.
"It just seems like a cheap way to win."
A video replay of the goal, taken by the Severna Park camera operator, appeared to back up Shelton and Kidwell.
Still, Westminster and Severna Park played fairly even the rest of the way, and the Owls links and backs, along with goalie Cindy Dieterly, snuffed several of the Falcons offensive drives. Judie Marcus, Meredith Fisher, Staci Schmidt and Cara Ober continued to display the kind of defense that helped Westminster compile 13 shutouts in 16 games.
"We weren't intimidated by them," said Marcus, also the team's leading scorer in the regular season. "But they're a very good team, and sometimeswe would slip back and wait for them to play the ball."
Of course, Carroll teams aren't easily intimidated by anyone, no matter how gaudy the record.
Just ask Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
Steven Kivinski of the Anne Arundel County Sun contributed to this article.