Over the past two years, the Fallston girls soccer team has lost six games, won a county and regional title and advanced to the 2A state semifinals.
Yet the prize that has eluded the No. 4 Cougars (9-0) is a state championship. But this season has a different feel, and Fallston appears to be in the best position to make its move.
For one, the Cougars finally solved the all-too-familiar losses to Howard County teams, with victories over Hammond (6-0), Oakland Mills (3-0) and Wilde Lake (2-1) in their first three games. And they shut out Atholton, 4-0, Friday.
"Those games were definitely a steppingstone and a confidence booster, and they were a good read as to what might happen during the regular season," said Fallston coach Nancy Ferguson. "We went into those games knowing we could beatthem."
The Cougars' uphill climb continues this week, as they enter the heart of the county schedule with key games against rival C. Milton Wright tomorrow and North Harford Wednesday.
The Cougars are quick, talented, deep and well-coached. If there xTC is a difference this year, Ferguson said it is experience.
"With the younger kids playing in the summer and at camp, most of our seniors don't have all the experience as the younger players do," said Ferguson. "But that has helped the seniors play better."
By far, this year's group on attack is the most explosive ever, and it is still rather young. It is led by junior striker Beth Blasi, who has 10 goals and eightassists and who Ferguson says is the best thing to happen to Fallston in quite some time.
"We've become very aggressive as a team in order to move on and we are very determined and I think a state title is one of the things we really want this year," said Blasi, a three-year starter.
Said Ferguson: "She creates a lot for us and she is so unselfish. You can tell when she steps out on the field, she has that natural soccer ability."
The scoring doesn't stop with Blasi, who often draws two defenders, as every player on the front line has at least one goal. Even the newcomers, specifically Jainae Szerentis and Chrissy Battenfeld, have seen some quality minutes and contributed nicely. The Cougars have outscored their opponents, 57-4.
The Cougars are just as strong behind the front line, where a stingy defense has registered seven shutouts.
The backfield is where Ferguson has made the most adjustments, but Kelly Wolf, Jen Cook, Beth Rappled and goalkeeper Emily Weibel make up a very active group.
"The key is that all of us support each other and if one of us makes a mistake, we use our speed to recover as much as we can," said Wolf.
Added Blasi, "The defense has done a great job getting the ball right out to us on the front line."
While Fallston actually may appear more primed for a state title next year, there is perhaps a sense of urgency among the seniors to bring a title home.
"I think next year we'll be better, seeing who's coming back, but, of course, we hope to bring it home this year," said Ferguson. "This group is just so supportive."
Said Wolf: "We're just a lot closer this year and the seniors are so motivated. Everybody's goal is to get back to the state semifinals and beat Loch Raven and do it for the seniors in their last year."