Given a far stronger game than it had reason to expect, Centennial used a penalty kick as the springboard to its first girls state 4A-3A soccer title with a 4-1 defeat of Dulaney yesterday at Arundel.
The score did not do the game justice.
The 16-0 Eagles -- No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun poll but seeded fourth only because of the non-4A-3A schools they play -- jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Paige Nettlebladt's penalty kick 2 minutes, 34 seconds before halftime.
They led 2-0 with just more than 26 minutes left, but top seed and fifth-ranked Dulaney (13-3-1) pared the gap to one when Aimee Vaughn converted Frances Forcellese's through ball with 22:23 to go.
Then came the second of two major mistakes that ended youthful Dulaney's surprising run at the state title.
Goalie Courtney McClelland and back and younger sister Whitney McClelland delayed clearing a loose ball in the goal mouth -- each thinking the other would take it -- and Mary Ellen Carullo split through to score with 5:28 to play.
Corina Riismandel burned the stunned Lions off a corner kick exactly one minute later.
"It [the third goal] was a 'young' mistake," said Dulaney coach Evey Quinn, who started four freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors. "If Courtney had come out and got that ball, we could have gotten a break and tied it up."
The first mistake set up Nettlebladt's penalty kick that changed the game's momentum.
Courtney McClelland (eight saves) came out of goal to smother a through ball to Eagles striker Vicky Brunt, but the ball squirted away to Alison Bielski. Her line shot at the open goal was punched away by Whitney McClelland, who was called for a handball in the penalty area.
Whitney McClelland apparently could have headed the ball away. "But I've been playing goalie most of the year, so it was just natural to use my hands," she said. "I was running across the goal and it would have been hard to get my head on it anyway."
Nettlebladt's high penalty shot glanced off the left post and trickled behind Courtney McClelland.
"I was very nervous. I was going left all the way, but I wanted the low to middle. I thought I'd missed it, but the ball just bounced in," Nettlebladt said.
Centennial outshot Dulaney, 17-6, and was in control most of the way after Nettlebladt's goal.