A youthful Annapolis girls lacrosse team entered Friday's game against visiting, five-time defending Class 4A-3A state champion Severna Park looking for its fourth straight victory without a loss.
As a loftier goal, the Annapolis program, on the rise under third-year coach Sue Chittim, was trying to firmly establish itself among the state's elite.
And if you asked a tearful Chittim after her Panthers' 9-7 overtime victory, Annapolis truly belongs.
"We wanted to prove that we could play with the big boys, and I think this was the game that did it," said Chittim, whose Panthers, ranked No. 9 in The Baltimore Sun poll, had gone a combined 14-9-1 during her two previous seasons. "There was talk before this game that we were lucky and that we weren't askilled team. Tonight, I think we proved that we're a skilled team."
But not without a near-repeat of last year's meeting with SevernaPark (2-1), in which the Falcons overcame a three-goal deficit to win by a goal in the last three minutes of regulation.
The Falcons trailed Friday's contest, 6-3, at the half, but cut the deficit to 7-6with two minutes left in regulation on goals from Amy Carnaggio (twogoals), Lizzy Warfield (two) and Colleen Gately (two). Warfield tiedthe game at 7-7 with 42 seconds left, setting up the overtime.
When a bystander asked Severna Park coach Carin Peterson on the sideline if she expected a repeat of last year, she responded "I hope so." But those hopes were --ed by Panthers' junior midfielder Lauren Feinstein.
After going scoreless through regulation, Feinstein tallied with six seconds left in the first three-minute overtime period and again with a minute left in the second.
"I feel really lucky that I was the one who got the opportunity," said Feinstein, who has four goals on the season. "We got a little overconfident in the second half,and I think that's what let them back in the game."
Actually, most of the credit should go to Falcons defender Nicki Cecere, who shadowed the Panthers' top scorer, sophomore Cristi Samaras (19 goals, twoassists), and shut her down after Samaras had scored three of her team's first-half goals and assisted her sister, Cory, on the other.
Kirsten Chiari went coast-to-coast to net the Panthers' only goal ofthe second half, giving her team a 7-4 lead with nine minutes left in regulation.
"(Cecere) was playing total man-to-man and no matterhow hard I cut, I just couldn't get away," said Cristi Samaras. "ButI didn't come in here thinking I was going to score all of the goals. I'm glad there are others who can step up."
After tying the gameat 1, the Panthers' second-leading scorer, senior Cory Harmon (eightgoals, three assists), left the game with an injury to her right knee.
But the Panthers, whose center, Nicole Deschamp, won nine of 10first-half draws, made up for the loss of firepower.
In addition,the Panthers survived an offensive surge by the Falcons, thanks to senior keeper Carrie Lewis (20 saves), who made seven of her nine first-half stops on close shots.