Fallston senior goalie Ashley Staples knows the routine. In fact, the four-year starter has come to expect penalty strokes when the Class 3A East region field hockey final comes along.
The defending state champion Cougars, winners of seven state crowns, won two of their last three region titles by penalty strokes. And that experience is what South River, making its first region title bid, had to deal with yesterday afternoon in Fallston.
Experience won out. The Cougars advanced to the Class 3A state semifinals with a 3-2 decision in penalty strokes after a game that was tied, 1-1, after 60 regulation minutes and 20 more minutes of overtime at seven-a-side.
Fallston will next play the winner of today's West Region championship -- Richard Montgomery vs. Seneca Valley -- at 12: 30 p.m. Monday at Goucher College.
After Staples made a save with her left hand -- her third of the five rounds of strokes -- Stefanie Ogle clinched the Cougars' seventh straight region title, going left to get the decisive score past South River sophomore goalie Jen Davison.
Also scoring on penalty strokes for the Cougars were Laura Williams and Stephanie Yancone. Meredith Barry and Kristen Sinnett scored strokes for the Seahawks, who finished at 8-5-2.
"During the season I take about a thousand strokes. I'm just real comfortable with it. And the left-hand glove save -- I love that save," said Staples.
The Cougars (13-3) almost didn't make it to penalty strokes, though, needing a goal from senior Kellie Watts with 12: 49 left in regulation to tie the score, 1-1. South River took a 1-0 first-half lead on a goal by Fallston-transfer Lori Ferrogine.
Then, as has so often been the case, penalty strokes turned out to be Cougars-time.
The Seahawks, which have come a long way in a short time under third-year coach Laura Gerrior, showed they belonged in the region's final game with the state champions.
"Field hockey used to be a huge joke at South River. But we're getting good athletes to come out and getting more consistency," said Gerrior. "I was extremely proud of the way we played today. This is the farthest South River has ever come."
After surviving a double overtime game against Bel Air on Wednesday, the Cougars showed they still had something left in coming from behind yesterday.
"Experience played a lot [in the win.] The girls who've been [to Goucher] know what they will be missing out on if they don't get there, while the girls who haven't been there can only think on what they're missing," said Fallston coach Alice Puckett.
Class 3A North
No. 9 Long Reach 2, No. 8 North Carroll 0: Sophomore substitute Shelby Orndoff scored three minutes after entering the region final in the 11th minute yesterday in Hampstead, and senior midfielder Jessica Burkhardt added another two minutes later for the Columbia team.
Long Reach, improving to 11-2-2, captured the first regional championship in the school's four-year history. The Lightning, which clinched a share of the Howard County title with Glenelg last week, will meet the Class 3A South Regional champion Monday at Goucher College.
The Panthers (11-4) turned up the pressure in the second half, forcing senior goalie Jaye Lance to make seven saves. But Long Reach held off every challenge to seal its championship.