The phrase "Welcome to the Battle of the 'Century,' the Knight vs. the Cavalier" was spelled out with white cups and stuck into holes in the fence that lined the entrance to Century's stadium.
Century and South Carroll met Monday for the second time this season. Only this time, they were playing to keep their seasons alive in the Class 2A-1A West Section 2 final. Backed by senior attacker Julia Hatmaker and freshmen Grace Bruce and Christina Haspert, the Knights pulled away with the 13-4 victory.
"At first I think we were a bit jumpy," Hatmaker said. "Once we settled the ball down and worked within the plays, we started to see cutters and started scoring."
Bruce, who surpassed former Knights standout Hannah Warther's freshman record for goals (65), got the Knights on the board first with a free position tally about seven minutes into the game — it was her first of four goals on the night, and she has 67 on the season.
"I think we came out to face the team we played in the regular season," Bruce said. "It was a bad way to start out but we changed things up."
Century (14-3) built a 5-0 run over South Carroll through the first seven-and-a-half minutes of play but Cavaliers senior defender Maggie Bielski found sophomore midfielder Riley Evans for a goal to trim the deficit to 5-1. Haspert netted a third goal with 7:04 on the clock to spark a 3-0 run for the Knights, but Cavs senior attacker Mackenzie Wenczkowski found Evans for another Cavs goal to close out the first half.
The Knights called a time out with 13:12 remaining in the second half after South Carroll's Mia MacKenzie connected with senior attacker Greta Knopp, despite a defensive push from Century, for a third SC goal. Cavs senior midfielder Shannon Finch fired a shot from the free position to bring the Cavs within six.
Haspert and Bruce paced the Knights offense through the remainder of the game, combining for three goals to secure the victory for Century. Knights coach Becky Groves said she can always count on multiple players to come through when it's most necessary, and Hatmaker fit that mold Monday.
The depth is intact and the Knights know they can use that to their advantage.
"It's really important because we need to use everyone on the field," Hatmaker said. "Finding our strengths and working through that is really crucial in the game."
The Cavaliers won consecutive draw controls through the majority of the game, but the Knights capitalized on picking up loose balls to regain their possession.
Bruce normally takes the draw for Century, but Groves said it's something the team will have to tweak and improve to continue their playoff run.
"It's nice to know coming in what you think they're going to do, but teams change," Groves said. "Teams change throughout the year, we did play South Carroll toward the end of the year but you alter what you're doing to have more success and they did a good job of doing that."
Knights goalie Hannah Basso and Cavs goalie Christina White each registered 12 saves in goal. SC coach Brigid McTavish spoke highly of her players, 10 of which are seniors, who garnered 10 wins this season (10-7).
"I can honestly say they came out to practice every day and worked hard," McTavish said. "They worked well as a group and used each other. We're a good team, but we're a good team because we use each other, not individually placed. When we're not using each other that's when we're not winning games, which is unfortunate but it just so happens that's how it works sometimes."
Goals: SC-Riley Evans 2, Greta Knopp, Shannon Finch; C-Michaela Connolly 2, Julia Hatmaker 3, Grace Bruce 4, Christina Haspert 4.
Assists: SC-Mia MacKenzie, Paige Abbott; C-Connolly 3, Bruce, Haspert.
Saves: SC-12 (Christina White); C-12 (Hannah Basso).
Halftime: Century, 13-4.