The competition was fierce and the coaching intense Thursday as Carroll County rivals No. 8 Westminster and No. 12 Century played a scoreless game deep into the second half in a match that could wind up determining the county field hockey champion.
It was finally Westminster junior forward Abby Cronin who got her stick on the ball during a corner play in front of the Century goal. In the middle of a scrum and a cloud of dust, she whacked the ball into the net with 4:37 left to play for what would be the winning goal in a 1-0 showdown.
How good was the game in which host Westminster kept its record perfect?
So good Century's senior goalie Steffie Pfisterer said: "I know we lost, but this is a good match-up and we played probably the best game I've ever seen."
The difference over 60 minutes was one finishing stroke between two teams who were stoked on desire.
"It was a very big game," Cronin said. "We had won the county championship four years in a row and then they took it away from us last year by winning this game. We want it back."
Westminster (11-0 overall, 5-0 in the county) still has two games to play against Liberty and Manchester Valley, so the county title isn't locked up. But Westminster and Century have been the top two teams in Carroll County for a long time, and both sides felt this would probably be the deciding game again.
Despite the loss, Century (10-2-1, 5-1) seemed to do everything right.
The Knights' Abby Remanapp, who is playing center midfield this season in place of her twin, Allison (who tore her ACL), seemed to have her stick on every ball, and defender Maddie Willis was anticipating passes and cutting them off.
The Owls were tenacious, too. Westminster coach Mary Rivera challenged them to move and shoot the ball, and junior Ashley Martin was fluid, moving from midfield to defense, while defender Caroline Russell also played well.
Owls goalie Hailey Poisel made five saves, several under extreme pressure, including the last one with less than two minutes to play, to make sure a single goal stood up.
And then there was Cronin, who had just re-entered the game after serving a five-minute penalty. Rivera called her "fierce."
She watched as teammate Casie Walsh inbounded the ball on the last of Westminster's six corners and then got her stick on the ground for Maddy Walsh's hit from the top of the circle to be in perfect position to make the big play.