Defending champion and top-ranked Severna Park escaped South River High in Edgewater last night with a 3-2 victory over No. 14 C. Milton Wright in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Kim Kral's goal with 36 seconds left in regulation enabled the Falcons to preserve their unbeaten record (19-0) and advance to Tuesday's 3A state final (8 p.m.) at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The game-winner came after the Mustangs had twice tied the score, at 1-1 in the first half and 2-2 in the second half with just over five minutes remaining. Had it not been for one referee overruling the other to take away a Mustangs goal with 20:25 left in the game, Kral's goal might have forced overtime instead of being the game-winner.
"It almost felt like slow motion to me," Kral said of the decisive score on a cross from Jill Puffenbarger.
"I saw the ball, didn't even think about how I was going to hit it. I just ran in there and hit it. I wanted to avoid at all costs the seven-on-sevens [shootout after overtime if still no winner]. They're the most stressful things ever."
Coach Lil Shelton's Falcons earned the chance to add to their Maryland record for state titles (14) against Bethesda-Chevy Chase in a rematch of last year's final, won 3-1 by the Falcons.
However, C. Milton Wright (9-7-1) nearly prevented the Falcons from defending their crown.
"They're the best team by far that we've played in my three years on varsity," said Sam Price, who scored the Falcons' second goal.
Abbi Horn's 18th goal of the season gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead midway through the first half, but Towson University-bound Laura Schnell tied it up with a bullet from about 15 yards out off a corner with 1:02 left in the first 30 minutes.
C.M. Wright appeared to have taken a 2-1 lead in the first 10 minutes of the second half as the referee near the cage ruled a score, only to be overruled by her partner downfield.
"The one ref who was right there called it a goal," said Mustangs coach Carla Howard.
"She said it went over the end line and came back in, but we have it on tape that their defender pushed the goal cage back. It was in the goal cage and should have been a goal. It's tough because we outplayed them. I feel we won this game."
A textbook fast break culminated by Horn's cross to Price gave the Falcons a 2-1 lead at the midway point of the second half. It was the team-leading 24th assist for Horn, who is headed to Cornell.
Sophomore Mary Waller tied the game at 2-2 with 5:12 left.