Over the past two seasons, Broadneck's field hockey team has won 23 of its 32 games, a winning percentage (.719) that would make any coach proud. But the Bruins have not been able to overcome one nemesis that has prevented them from playing for a state title: South River.

Last week, Broadneck took a 1-0 lead in the final three minutes of the 4A East Region final -- with a trip to states on the line -- only to see the Seahawks score twice in the final 1 minute 40 seconds for a 2-1 victory. Couple that with last year's 5-2 loss to South River in the 4A East final (a game in which Broadneck also led, 2-1) and a 2-2 tie on Oct. 24 that helped keep Broadneck out of this year's county championship, and they're shaking their heads on College Parkway.

"I don't know why that happens. We as a team can't come up with a reason," said fourth-year coach Melissa Quigley, who is left to smile about a 12-3-1 record but wonder why Broadneck can't move past the Seahawks.

"I think it's a question that can't be answered, because if we could, we would have won. We're very comparable matched up. . . . It's always a good game against them."

Senior defenseman Julia Puzak, who was on the junior varsity when Broadneck last won a state championship in 2002, suggested that "maybe after we scored our first goal, everyone [on the team] thought we had it."

Puzak also conceded that the loss was due to "some mistakes we made inside the circle" but added that late fouls called by the referees -- which gave South River penalty corner play-ins and ultimately the tying and winning goals -- were suspect.

"Honestly, I didn't understand some of the calls," Puzak said.

Quigley said that during the season she and assistants Jennifer Parks and Amanda McElwee run "situational drills" -- for instance, a penalty corner in an overtime game -- designed to prepare the players for various situations that arise. But, ultimately, Quigley said, winning is mainly about "the mental game."

When the pressure is on, "we always tell them take a deep breath, take a second to think about what you're going to do," Quigley said.

Puzak, whose sister Melissa was part of the 2002 state-title-winning squad, said she was still on the fence as to whether she'll attend the 4A state championship game Monday night at the University of Maryland.

"I think if it's South River in it, [I] might go to see if they win it. Then we could say we lost to the state champion," said Puzak.

But then, recalling the South River game, she seemed to have a change of heart: "I don't think I can go, because it's hard to believe that our season is over. It's just unbelievable. I feel like it's one of the most devastating losses."