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Ben Hiebler’s goal late in overtime lifts Liberty boys soccer past Westminster to net Carroll County title

Ben Hiebler gestured toward his Liberty High School boys soccer teammates to meet him at the near corner of the field, and when they did the Lions rejoiced with their senior captain in a big way.

Hiebler’s second goal of the game came with 22 seconds remaining in overtime, and it capped a Carroll County championship in the process. The midfielder had two goals and two assists in Liberty’s 4-3 win over Westminster, and Hieber scored his team’s final two goals of the game to complete a thrilling comeback Tuesday evening.

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“We knew that if we kept pressing and kept playing our game ― we’re playing hard, we’re getting our chances ― that one would eventually go in,” Hiebler said of his game-tying goal with less than 2 minutes to play in regulation. “We were [also] able to play our game in overtime.”

Liberty (7-0) piled up scoring opportunities throughout the latter part of regulation, after senior Eric Wojtkowski gave Westminster a 3-2 lead on a close-range goal with 28 minutes to play. Headers deflected off posts. Crossing passes just missed their target. Corner kicks went awry. Liberty teammates were slightly off communicating with one another.

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But Hiebler said having a veteran bunch (the Lions have 11 seniors and 10 juniors on their roster) paid off in perseverance.

“Our chemistry as a team in general is just unreal,” said Hiebler, who shares captain duties with fellow seniors Owen Milewski and Chimwemwe Chinkuyu. “It’s great playing with these guys. We all trust each other so much.”

Liberty's Ben Hiebler battles Westminster's Cameron Doolan for the ball during the first half. Liberty takes a 4-3, overtime victory to take the Carroll County boys soccer championship Tuesday night in Eldersburg.
Liberty's Ben Hiebler battles Westminster's Cameron Doolan for the ball during the first half. Liberty takes a 4-3, overtime victory to take the Carroll County boys soccer championship Tuesday night in Eldersburg. (Doug Kapustin / Carroll County Times)

Westminster (4-3) held its own with the reigning Carroll County Athletic League champs after losing to Liberty 5-2 in the season opener back in early March as it dealt with COVID-19 issues. The Owls had leads of 2-1 and 3-2 on Tuesday, then played strong defense despite being a man down because of a red card for the better part of the second half and all of overtime.

Senior goalie Avery Lowe collected 15 saves in his first full-game action of the season. Lowe filled in for Riley Morsberger, who missed the game with an illness. Owls coach Robert Brown praised his back line of defenders ― juniors Landon Bair, Zach Gaegler, and Tony Kunz, along with senior midfielders Cam Doolan and Thomas Funka ― for holding their own against a potent Liberty offense.

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Funka scored with about 5 minutes to play in the first half to give Westminster a 2-1 lead, but Liberty’s Sam Allen netted the equalizer from a Hiebler assist in the final 2 minutes of the half. The Owls once again played with a lead in the second half, and their defense had a bend-don’t-break rhythm going before Hiebler flicked in a short direct kick from Dylan McLaughlin with 1:40 remaining.

That momentum carried Liberty into overtime, and Hiebler’s second goal lifted the Lions to their fourth county championship since 2015.

“It’s incredible, and it feels great,” Hiebler said. “Just to play with these guys, and the shortened season makes it all the better.”

Goals: W-Ashton Stewart, Thomas Funka, Eric Wojtkowski; L-Ben Hiebler 2, Drew McLaughlin, Sam Allen

Assists: W-Noah Roche, Josh Lindenstruth, Jimmy Gogol; L-Hiebler 2, Dylan McLaughlin, Ryan Smith

Saves: W-15 (Avery Lowe); L-5 (Hutton Steier).

Halftime: Tied, 2-2

JV result: Liberty, 3-0

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