Ultimately, it took Sparrows Point to beat Sparrows Point and end the streak of six consecutive state titles.
On an Eastern Tech free kick, the ball came right at a Sparrows Point player in front of the goal. It bounced off her upper body as she twisted to shield her face and went directly into the goal, squeezing just inside the post.
Tragically for the Pointers, that was the only score as Eastern Tech held on to win 1-0.
But that alone didn’t lose the game. Not being able to score against a team that entered the playoffs with a 5-6 record was also a major factor.
(Give the Mavericks some credit; they faced unbeaten, top-seeded Century in the state quarterfinals and only lost 1-0.)
Confession time: I’ve felt all season this was the year Sparrows Point’s state title streak would end — albeit not in the regional round against a Baltimore County school.
I figured, if Sparrows Point lost, it would be to Century or Middletown in the state semifinals or championship game.
Part of it was the move to Class 2A, where the schools are bigger and there are more outstanding teams; it wouldn’t just be a matter of beating Smithsburg or Patterson Mill every season.
Part of it was the Pointers were no longer guaranteed to have the best player on the field, as they were with Julie Lynch and, before her, Jamie Shiflett.
Sparrows Point this season was a team of very good players without that one star who could be counted upon to be a difference-maker.
The Pointers were also lacking in depth. All season, Sparrows Point’s opponents would have around eight players on the bench, while the Pointers would just have two or three.
Sparrows Point’s starting 11 was better than just about all other team’s starting 11, but even the best players need a break now and then.
When injuries took Alaina Jacurak and Jade Weir, it really put a strain on Sparrows Point.
“Losing strong midfielders left us with holes to fill in the middle,” Sparrows Point coach Lori Sexton said. “Having to replace two of the three this year left us searching for the same power combination.
“But that takes time, and we didn’t have enough of it. And then to lose [Weir] towards the end of the season ...”
Then there’s simple bad luck. One of the amazing thing about Sparrows Point’s six-year state title run was how they avoided bad bounces and other mishaps that sometimes sink the superior team.
It’s soccer; stuff happens, and the better team somehow loses. But not Sparrows Point, not for six straight years and 30+ postseason games.
(Tentatively, I’m gonna say Sparrows Point had a 31-game postseason winning streak. But I gotta do some research and check the numbers.)
You can only buck the odds for so long. Eventually, you’re going to roll snake eyes and a bad bounce is going to score a goal for the other team.
On the bright side, the pressure is now off. Replaced by new incentive.
“We are going to come back strong next year to try and win the championship back,” Sexton said. “We have a lot to learn from this year and we will use that as motivation when we come back in August.
“Only three returning players will have a state championship on their resume. We will be looking for them to lead the team as we transition into the new season.”