If this was the year Severna Park could be knocked off its pedestal as the reigning girls soccer county champion, someone forgot to tell the Falcons.
Seventh-ranked Severna Park reasserted its dominance by defeating No. 4 Arundel, 3-1, in the Anne Arundel County championship game at South River High School in Edgewater last night.
The Falcons, who improved to 12-2-1 overall and 10-1 in the county, captured their fifth consecutive county title. The past four have belonged to Severna Park outright, and the Falcons shared the crown with Chesapeake in 1997.
"It was a big thing to prove to everyone that we belonged in this game," said sophomore striker Katie White. "People, I guess, had their doubts."
Those doubters may have been encouraged when Severna Park lost to then-No. 10 South River, 2-0, last week and needed a fourth tiebreaker criterion over those same Seahawks to earn a spot in the county championship game.
That criticism crossed the mind of Falcons senior midfielder Lauren Mitchell.
"A lot of people thought that since we lost to South River, we weren't going to beat Arundel," she said. "We believed in ourselves, and everyone pulled together as a team."
When Severna Park met Arundel two weeks ago, the Wildcats (12-3, 10-2 county) played without sophomore midfielder Melissa Hornfeck and stayed with the defending county champion until the final seven minutes of the game.
True to its fast-break, opportunistic style, Arundel played the role of aggressor last night, peppering Falcons junior goalkeeper Brooke Shinaberry (12 saves) with five shots in the first 15 minutes. Senior striker Jessica Upchurch nearly staked the Wildcats to a 1-0 lead when her shot from about 20 yards away skimmed off the crossbar nine minutes into the first half.
But Severna Park took the lead with 24:26 left in the half. Senior midfielder Kate Hickman outraced an Arundel defender to the ball in the right corner of the field and crossed it.
Wildcats sophomore goalie Catie Bukowski (four saves) appeared to have caught the ball, but it bounced out of her arms and onto the foot of senior midfielder Erin Dubina, who walked the ball into the open net.
Seven minutes later, Arundel got the equalizer when sophomore striker Alli Wilkerson trapped a pass from senior midfielder Rachel Moreland and lined a left-footed shot into the right corner.
The tie didn't last, as Falcons junior defender Ashley Dugan headed in a pass from Mitchell on their only corner kick of the game with 11:56 left in the half.
Severna Park coach Gary Lam said Dugan's goal was the result of practicing corner kicks for 30 minutes during practice Monday.
"Mitchell was serving the ball well in practice, and Dugan is our best in the air," he said. "I knew that at some point, a set piece would work. Fortunately, it worked for us."
The Wildcats - who had a 12-5 advantage in shots during the opening half - pressed in the second, taking six shots and drawing two corner kicks. But White converted a breakaway with 14:20 left in the game to clinch the win and the crown for Severna Park.
Arundel coach Tom Degner, whose team hasn't beaten the Falcons since 1996, said White's score was the inevitable outcome of trying to play catch-up with Severna Park.
"When they scored that second one, we had to open up our defense," he said. "And they scored right away. That's the mark of a good team."