CATONSVILLE -- The Southern girls lacrosse team made its return to the state playoffs Saturday night after a one-year absence.
That accomplished one of the Bulldogs' goals. Mount Hebron of Howard County made certain the second goal would go unfulfilled.
The second-ranked Vikings packaged finesse and aggression into a tidy 17-8 victory over eighth-ranked Southern in the 2A/1A semifinals at Catonsville Community College.
Hebron (17-0) meets No. 1 Loch Raven, the owner of a 67-game winning streak, in tomorrow's finals.
The Bulldogs (10-5), particularly sixth-year coach Linda Kilpatrick, went home frustrated and confused over the style of play allowed from the Hebron side.
"When you come to a state tournament, you should have the plays called the same way they're called during the season," said Kilpatrick, who has won three state-regional titles. "I like the way it was called here, but I couldn't prepare for it.
"Did you see a three-seconds [violation] called all day? Did you see a zone called all day? No. This is a totally different game than we've played the entire year.
"We worked all [Friday] on a defense we thought we had to play, and, all of a sudden, it's totally different. And I can't change everything in two minutes right here on the field. It just takes the game completely away from you."
Hebron's ability to control most of the draws and make accurate passes had the same effect.
The Vikings finished with a 17-10 edge in draws and, most telling, a 55-26 advantage in ground balls.
And Kilpatrick said the Vikings were given the leeway by officials to play a brand of defense not permitted in Anne Arundel County, especially when it came to clogging the area around the crease.
"If I could get away with that style of game in my county, I'd play it, too, because you win playing that style. That's smart coaching. They don't allow us to be smart coaches [in Anne Arundel]," Kilpatrick said.
"If this exact game had been called in Anne Arundel County, there would have been 50 million three-seconds, 50 million [yellow] cards. I'm not saying it's bad officials, good officials, I'm saying there needs to be consistency among them."
Southern actually led once at 2-1. There were three ties, the last at 3-3 when sophomore Kari Sherbert converted a free-position shot with 16:40 remaining in the opening half.
And then, something happened. Hebron took every draw, patiently set up its offense, found the cutter and scored.
And scored again.
Six straight goals in just over five minutes. A 9-3 lead that was built swiftly and impeccably.
By halftime, the Vikings had a 21-8 advantage in shots and had controlled 13 of 20 draws. And, most painful to the Bulldogs, Hebron had a 13-6 lead.
"They scooped a lot better and moved the ball better than we did," Kilpatrick said. "The first half, they picked up the ground balls and we got a little frustrated and we hung our heads a little bit, instead of just coming right back at them."
There would be no comebacks on this night, not with Hebron's superior speed and passing.
"We had a scouting report on Southern -- an old fraternity brother of mine did an eight-page scouting report -- and we knew pretty much what they did," said Hebron coach P.J. Kesmodel.
RTC Kesmodel didn't need a scouting report to find something else that could work to his team's advantage.
"I watched the goalie [Crystal Bennett] warm up," he said. "She carries her stick way over like this [tilted to the right]. When you carry here, there's no way she's ever going to get over to the other side. I told them, 'The only place she's going to stop it was stick-side low.' "
Heeding their coach's words, the Vikings placed most of their shots into the upper portion of the net.
Sophomores Cathy Nelson (five assists) and Amy Fine and senior Megan Drake each had four goals for Hebron, while junior Lori Pasquamtonia (two assists) netted three. Lynette Chastant and Andrea Cuzmanes added one goal each.
Southern senior Jennie Young had three goals and one assist. Sherbert added two goals, and Liza Bigger, Talaya Barnett and Becky Archambo scored one apiece.
"We accomplished a lot from last year," said Southern senior Rachel Gladwell. "We definitely improved, and we're proud of that."