Severna Park's Corinne Manuel briefly lost her field hockey helmet, but she never lost her head at the prestigious Nyborg Tournament in Baltimore last weekend.
Manuel, the Falcons' junior goalie, was in the middle of a scrum in front of the Falcons' goal in a game against host Roland Park when her helmet came loose and fell to the ground.
Fortunately for Manuel, the ball did not strike her face. Fortunately for the No. 1 Falcons, the bare-headed Manuel was still able to stop Roland Park from scoring.
"I didn't really think about it. I just wanted to keep the ball from going in," Manuel said. "I did make sure I tightened my helmet for the second half, though."
Manuel was perfect throughout the tournament as the Falcons won both of their games: 3-0 over Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland power Roland Park and 1-0 against then-No. 2 St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, a private school in Alexandria.
Severna Park Coach Lil Shelton was impressed with Manuel's play.
"She always stays involved," Shelton said. "Mentally, she's always in the game, even when the ball is not on her side of the field."
After splitting time with second-team All-Met Dee Crovo last season, Manuel has made a speedy transition to full-time starter, important for a team that isn't used to giving up goals. Last year, Severna Park outscored its opponents 94-2 during the regular season. Manuel has shown the signs of continuing that streak. As of Monday, the Falcons had not allowed a goal all season.
Still, Manuel credits that statistic as much to the entire defense as her own stellar play.
"We have an awesome defense," she said. "It's just really strong. The girls do all types of crunches and sit-ups out there to make sure we're ready for anything that comes our way."
If Manuel and the defense keep on playing well, a second straight undefeated regular season is not out of the question. By going 2-0 in Baltimore and last Friday defeating defending 4A champions South River -- which was ranked No. 5 at the time -- the Falcons have already beaten many of the most difficult teams on their schedule. Still, the one team that Severna Park did not face in the Nyborg Tournament -- Bethesda-Chevy Chase -- looms as a possible state title challenger. Last year, the Barons handed Severna Park its only loss, a 2-1 double-overtime setback in the 3A state final.
Despite going 0-1-1 on Saturday, Bethesda-Chevy Chase showed that it had a standout goalkeeper of its own in junior Claire Davey-Karlson. Davey-Karlson had 13 saves, many of them spectacular, sprawling efforts in the 1-1 tie with Roland Park.
"I think all of us are totally ready for whatever comes next," Manuel said. "We're very strong this year, and hopefully we can keep playing like we're doing now."