Falcons Strike Hardest When It Counts
Kowalski's Three Goals Lead Severna Park to School's 18th State Championship : Severna Park 6, Quince Orchard 0

By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, November 9, 2008

CHESTERTOWN, Md., Nov. 8 -- No matter what happens in the regular season, Severna Park prides itself on being a playoff team.

Last season, that meant ignoring three regular season losses -- a shocking number for the Falcons -- to roll through the 4A bracket. And this season, it meant using a loss to Broadneck in the Anne Arundel County title game as added fuel.

"We realized we had two options," Severna Park senior Megan Kowalski said. "We could either let that get to us and break us down, or we could take it as an extra incentive to really bring it in the playoffs. And we did."

Kowlaski scored three goals and the Falcons rolled to a 6-0 win over Quince Orchard in the 4A title game Saturday night at Washington College.

Severna Park (19-1), which has won three championships in a row and two straight over the Cougars, extended its record of Maryland field hockey titles to 18.

This one came easier than last year's, a 2-0 victory.

Severna Park senior Hanna Balleza opened the scoring five minutes into the game when she had the ball stolen from her, but stole it back and put a quick shot past Quince Orchard's goalie.

The Falcons took a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes 43 seconds remaining in the first half after Kowalski took a pass from senior Lelan Bailey at the left-hand side of the goal and buried a rocket in the right corner.

Kowalski struck again nine minutes later to give Severna Park a commanding 3-0 lead at the break.

"So many games have been so intense, so we were like, 'We've got to get it in quickly,' " Balleza said. "We didn't want one of those games that was nail-biting."

The Falcons' domination extended all over the field, as evidenced by Quince Orchard's inability to create a shot in the first half.

The Cougars, who won the 4A title in 2006, when Severna Park was still in the 3A classification, couldn't muster much of an attack in the second half, either, finishing with two total shots.

In a 1-0 overtime win against Westminster in the state semifinals, the Cougars (12-4-1) also played defense for much of the game. But unlike Westminster, Severna Park took advantage of its early opportunities -- and its late ones.

Sophomore Madison Thomas took it by herself to give the Falcons a 4-0 lead with 15:28 remaining and Kowalski earned her hat trick 24 seconds later.

Balleza added the final goal with five minutes left to cap Severna Park's latest example of playoff superiority.

"It's unreal," Balleza said. "Each year, we're just hoping for the best and I don't know how we do it. We're just such a great program."

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