Fallston High seniors Katherine King and Ellie Ajello did not want their journey together to end on a sour note.
King scored two of her three goals after halftime to help the 13th-ranked Cougars rally past No. 15 South Carroll, 3-2, for the school’s second straight Class 1A championship.
“The key is we were persistent,” King said. “I don’t think they were as persistent and wanted it as much as we did.”
Ajello assisted on King’s first goal and helped set up the decisive score in the second half. In the 56th minute, Ajello used her speed to get past the South Carroll defense before skipping a pass to midfielder Sarah Farally. The sophomore quickly snapped a pass King, who easily tapped in her third goal, giving Fallston the lead at 3-2.
“Great group of girls,” Fallston first-year coach Jon Salbeck. “New coaching staff, new team. [We started from] Ground Zero. I can’t commend these girls more. Day in and day out, they gave 110 percent in every game and every practice.”
Fallston (16-3 overall) trailed by a goal at halftime after an eventful first 40 minutes. The Cougars opened the scoring in the first 23 seconds of the game when King converted a breakaway goal off a nice pass at the midfield stripe from Ajello.
Making their first appearance in the state final, the Cavaliers did not go quietly. South Carroll (10-5-2) clawed back and took control of the contest with physical defense.
“I am beyond proud of my kids,” South Carroll coach Andrew Isacco said. “[Fallston] is one of the gold standard programs in the state. A couple of minutes, we had a letdown and they got us. Hats off to them, they are a heck of a team.”
The Cavs evened the scored when senior midfielder Kylie Malone corralled a loose ball in a crowd in front of the net and scored.
A short time later, disaster struck for Fallston as a failed clearing attempt bounced of a Cougars’ player and into their own net to give the Cavaliers a 2-1 edge heading into halftime.
Fallston didn’t panic trailing at the break and came out aggressive to start the second half.
“We knew as a whole we could do it,” King said of her team’s attitude at the break. “Last week, we trailed and came back so we knew it was possible to come back after trailing.”
The Cougars’ tenacity paid off in the 54th minute when Fallston junior defender Abby Richard created a turnover at the midfield stripe and charged into the South Carroll zone. Richard stopped near the top of the box and found King for her second goal to knot the score at 2.
“It is pretty cool when you go into the locker room down 2-1 and you look at these girls and they are like ‘We ain’t worried about this,’” Salbeck said. “They have so much confidence in themselves.”
Ajello never had a doubt about the team’s ability to respond to the adversity. Over the last two seasons, Fallston has always been able to find a way to win important games.
“They put a lot of pressure on us,” Ajello said. “We just had to find our way and not get too stressed. If we all work together and play the game we know, we were definitely going to come back.”
This was the final game playing together for Fallston senior mates, Ajello and King, who started playing together in the third grade.
Both joked postgame that they are not sure what they are going to do when the two play against each other with King headed to Bridgewater College and Ajello going to Shenandoah University next year.
“We have been on the same team since third grade,” King laughed. “Next year, in college we will be playing against each other in the same league. So, we are not going to be able to leave each other.”
For South Carroll, the loss ended a surprising run to the program’s first state final appearance. After a tough Carroll County slate and dealing with adversity like injuries and illness, it would have been easy for the Cavaliers to just go through the motions late in the season.
Isacco says his team’s refusal to give up on the season shows the great character of the team – something that was instilled in the team by leaders like Malone and senior Lauren Chesney.
“This group has been really supportive and uplifting throughout the season,” Malone said. “We used all the losses to build and grow. Getting this far, shows how much work we put in.”
CLASS 1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Loyola University/Ridley Athletic Complex
NO. 13 FALLSTON 3, NO. 15 SOUTH CARROLL 2
South Carroll 2 0 – 2
Fallston 1 2 – 3
Goals: Fallston – Katherine King 3; South Carroll - Kylie Malone, own goal
Assists: Fallston – Ellie Ajello, Abby Richard, Sarah Farally
Saves: South Carroll – Dani Inglesby 5. Fallston – Leah Rhinehart 3.