Fallston and Bethesda-Chevy Chase went into last night's state field hockey semifinal with 23 titles between them, but only Fallston will have a chance to add to its coffers.
Krissy Fusco and Caitlin Dempsey scored on penalty corners as the No. 2 Cougars dominated the Barons en route to a 2-0 victory in a Class 3A semifinal at Broadneck.
The Cougars (18-1) go for their 11th state title and their second straight when they meet Atholton at 4 p.m. Saturday at Washington College in Chestertown. The Raiders defeated Great Mills, 2-0, in last night's other semifinal.
The victory was the second straight in the state tournament for the Cougars over the Barons (13-5); they won last year's title game, 2-1, in double overtime.
Last night, the veteran Cougars controlled play for much of the first 40 minutes. Fusco scored off a corner pass from Dempsey a little more than six minutes into the game, and Dempsey added the second goal on a feed from Lindsey Puckett less than eight minutes after halftime.
"I feel like that second goal makes or breaks a team," Cougars defender Amanda Bandzwolek said, "because once you get that second goal up on them, they kind of start to give up hope. It puts you so far ahead, and it feels amazing."
After the Cougars went 2-0, the Barons, who returned only two field players from last season, had their best opportunities to score, but they couldn't put anything past Cougars goalkeeper Katie Gerbes (four saves).
"We had some opportunities at 2-0 to bring one back," Barons coach Amy Wood said. "If we could have brought it back with about eight minutes [to go], we could have put some pressure on, but it wasn't meant to be. Their defense played well to keep us from putting on some really serious shots."
For the Cougars, who have 13 seniors on the roster, getting back to the title game was a priority, especially because so many of them contribute.
"I feel like every time we come from defense, it's just like a swarm," Puckett said. "There's six of us at the top of the circle, and a lot of teams have said that it's really hard to find one girl to mark because everyone's a strong player on offense. I think that's really awesome that everybody brings a really strong game to the team."
In the early semifinal, Kim Markovitz scored both goals to lead the Raiders (14-3) over the Hornets (14-2) as Atholton advanced to the state final for the second time in school history; the first time was in 1980.
Markovitz, a sophomore forward, punched in a rebound of her own shot less than eight minutes into the game and came off the left post to score the insurance goal with 10:48 left.
The Raiders' defense, anchored by Kristin Duklewski, Amy Smith and Jacqueline Evans, held off nine Great Mills penalty corners, including seven between the goals. Goalie Madeline Bottomely, who finished with nine saves in the game, made a couple of terrific ones, including a lunging stop against the Hornets' Reagan Beasley with 8:57 left in the game.
"This is such a big deal because 10 of us are seniors, including myself," Bottomely said, "and our coach said when we were freshmen that if he could get us to stick together, we were going to states, and it's just great that we achieved our goal."