WINFIELD — When South Carroll’s defense began to take shape this season, the shape might have resembled a question mark.
It wasn’t that the players vying for starting roles lacked talent. Cohesion was the concern for coach Brad Widner and his staff, given the unit would be playing 2019 without much time together. Senior TJ Hogan was coming off an injury, Widner said. Same with junior Nicholas Pinto. And Evan Hock, SC’s senior goalie, saw action in only one game last season — the finale against county rival Winters Mill, a heartbreaking playoff loss.
Hock and his back line mates made sure that feeling didn’t linger past Monday evening, when the Cavaliers made a defensive statement and defeated the Falcons 11-5 at Parker Field.
The last time these teams met, May 9, 2018, the Falcons escaped with an 8-7 overtime victory in the Class 2A West Section 1 quarterfinals. Winters Mill trailed by two goals with 70 seconds to play in regulation, but forced OT and won when Alex Carr scored early in the extra period.
No such drama was featured this time — South Carroll (4-2, 1-0 Carroll County Athletic League) led by four goals at the half and kept WM to one goal in the third quarter before pulling away. Jacob Wenczkowski and Dylan O’Neill, both juniors, had three goals apiece for SC.
Hock collected 11 saves and played a part in keeping Winters Mill from finding any rhythm on offense, and the goalie said he took a little extra pleasure in helping his team to victory.
“I definitely had a chip on my shoulder,” Hock said. “I wanted to play good … we just came out playing with pride. We came out hot and kept it going.”
Defense has been critical to South Carroll’s success so far. In their four wins, the Cavs have allowed 5.5 goals per game. In their two losses, the average jumps to 15.5. Which is why Widner praised the defense — Hock, Hogan, Pinto, and freshman Matthew Williams, along with others, such as sophomore long-stick midfielder Seamus Kearney — for coming together at the right time.
“We’ve been working on trying to mesh as a unit,” Widner said. “Having Evan healthy this season has been great, as that senior goalie with his leadership.”
Winters Mill (3-3, 0-2) trailed 6-2 after three quarters, still in the hunt to knock off the home team for the second time in less than a year. But the Cavaliers kept their rivals at bay with a pair of early goals in the fourth.
O’Neill found the net with 8:58 to play, and Hogan came up from his defensive spot to find some shooting space and score 31 seconds later. That goal put a charge into South Carroll’s defensive players, and stamped the victory.
Jax Francisco, a sophomore goalie new to Winters Mill this season after playing for Gerstell in 2018 and helping it win a state championship, did his part to keep the Falcons close with eight saves.
Kaden Ross led WM with three goals and Carr added a goal an an assist, but first-year coach Darian Meador said his team is still a work in progress.
“It’s slowly just trying to … jell,” Meador said. “With a couple of the new guys, we’re still trying to build that camaraderie and that chemistry. But the good thing to take away is that, we’ll see them again in the playoffs. From that point, at least you’ve got something to look forward to.”
Meador was an assistant last year, when Winters Mill came to Winfield and upset the Cavaliers. Widner said SC was focusing on getting a win Monday, but he admitted the 2018 playoff loss was on everyone’s mind.
“We wanted to get revenge,” Widner said. “We gave it away at the end of the game last year.”
Goals: WM-Kaden Ross 3, Zach Urban, Alex Carr; SC-Jacob Wenczkowski 3, Dylan O’Neill 3, Adam McCarty 2, Noah Homayouni, Brett Finzel, TJ Hogan.
Assists: WM-Carr, Jansen Pusateri; SC-Homayouni 2, Drew Downing 2, Seamus Kearney, Benjamin Hart.
Saves: WM-8 (Jax Francisco); SC-11 (Evan Hock).
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Halftime: SC, 5-1.