Jeanine Tyler had not been one of No. 11 Fallston's top scorers all season, but the senior provided all the offense the Cougars would need in the state tournament.
Just as she had in the state semifinal, Tyler scored off a Kellie Watts corner pass in the first half and the Cougars defense held.
Tyler's goal lifted the Cougars past Montgomery County's Walter Johnson, 1-0, for the state Class 3A championship yesterday at Goucher College.
This state title is Fallston's seventh since 1988. Only Severna Park (11), Pocomoke (nine) and Bethesda-Chevy Chase (eight) -- who also won yesterday -- have more titles than Alice Puckett's Cougars (15-3).
"The key to our season was heart and determination," said senior midfielder Paula Priest, "because our skills are good, but our heart is stronger."
Yesterday, the Cougars played the same kind of 1-0 game that, in Wednesday's semifinal, avenged last year's title game loss to Northern of Calvert County. Tyler and Priest sparked a strong midfield effort and Ashley Foreman, who made a critical second-half stick save, led a defense that notched its fourth postseason shutout.
The Wildcats (12-5), who lost to Fallston in last year's semifinals, started strong, but Fallston began to turn the tide midway through the first half. The Harford County champs had four penalty corners in the final 18 minutes of the half and converted the last one.
Tyler took Watts' corner pass at the top of the circle, stopped it and drilled it into the right side of the cage. Wildcats goalie Jackie Lann (five saves) could only stick her foot out to try to stop it.
"I was being screened and I couldn't see that much as it came through," said Lann. "I went out for it and it hit off my boot. It was a really hard shot. I should have had it, but it was a good goal."
After the goal, the Wildcats seemed to get rattled.
"It's very hard to come back and my team played a little bit too defensively," said Wildcats coach Candace Thurman. "Paula was playing really well and we weren't able to get it around her too well. We were trying too hard to use it on the right side."
Fallston dominated the second half, but the Wildcats had a few chances, especially on a couple of corners in the final 15 minutes. Foreman made her stick save with 12 minutes left and goalie Ashley Staples stopped another shot with three minutes to go.
"At the end, it seemed the ball was coming down much more," said Foreman. "On one play, I saw a shot coming right in. It was going for the goal line and I just stuck my stick out and luckily stopped it. It was very hairy in there."
For Fallston, which began the season 2-3, the title caps a remarkable season of team growth.
"Seeing the girls go from empty eyes where they didn't believe in themselves," said Puckett, "to that little glimmer of thinking 'You know what? We're pretty good,' to this -- that's what it took. They just had to believe in themselves."
Bethesda-Chevy Chase 4, Easton 0. The Barons (17-2) won a state-record fifth straight title in a Class 2A rout over Easton (16-2). Sarah Wright scored two goals and Sarah Rosenbaum had a goal and an assist for the Montgomery County team, which has taken eight titles since 1988.
Pub Date: 11/15/98