A few weeks of summer vacation still remain, but Wednesday is the day Carroll County’s high school fall sports programs — along with the rest of the state — can begin preparations for the season ahead.
It’s like Christmas in July, as some coaches and athletes often put it. So before the 2018 campaign becomes clearer, let’s take a look back at what happened last fall among Carroll’s top teams and players.
Century and Manchester Valley’s teams each made impressive playoff runs last season. The Knights and Mavericks both captured regional championships in Class 2A and 3A, but saw their seasons end in the state semifinals.
Liberty defeated Century 1-0 to capture its second county championship in three years, but the Knights turned the tables to get past the Lions in the 2A West Section 1 final. Man Valley’s Connor Allen, the reigning Times Player of the Year, should be back for his senior season.
Liberty’s boys begin the fall as returns as the three-time reigning Class 2A state champions. Senior Daniel Saxon, the 2017 Times Runner of the Year is likely back, and the Lions could very well contend for another title.
Saxon won the individual county meet title and placed second at the 2A West meet and third at the state meet — good for Carroll’s top finisher.
Winters Mill sophomore Makenzie Hopkins, the 2017 Times Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, won the individual county meet title last fall and took third at the 2A West and 2A state meets. She was Carroll’s best girls finisher at the state meet and her third-place finish came in 19:45.22.
Francis Scott Key made a deep postseason run and reached the 1A state championship game — the Eagles’ first finals berth in 21 years. FSK fell to Patuxent, but with only a few contributors lost to graduation the program seems to be on solid footing.
Makayla Black had 21 goals last fall as a junior forward, third most in Carroll.
Last year’s Times first-team all-county squad featured 15 players, but only five seniors. Expect Carroll to return its share of talent — Veronica Maring, the reigning Times Player of the Year, helped Westminster win its second consecutive county championship in 2017.
Westminster rejoined county competition last fall after a two-year fortified schedule that included games against 3A contenders such as Linganore, Oakdale, Tuscarora, and South Hagerstown. The Owls took advantage of their return and went undefeated in county play en route to capturing their first title since 2013.
Westminster, along with county foe Liberty, represented Carroll in the region playoffs last season. The Lions were shut out by eventual 2A state champion Damascus, and saw their season come up short in the first round for a second straight year.
Westminster advanced to the 3A West final in a rematch against Linganore, but Lancers prevailed 16-14.
Winters Mill went undefeated in Carroll County Athletic League play last fall and captured its first county title since 2009. The Falcons went 12-3 and their playoff run took the 2A West victors to the state semifinals.
They lost to Hereford in penalty kicks and it was the second time they faced PKs in the playoffs that fall. WM defeated Oakdale in PKs in a sectional final game to advance to the region final.
Westminster will be vying for a second straight CCAL crown. The Owls didn’t lose a regular-season match (11-0-1) and performed well enough at the county tournament to secure the overall championship.
Westminster made an appearance in the state tournament last fall for the second time in four seasons, after winning its first county championship in 20 years. The 3A West champions suffered just one loss all season prior to facing Northern-Calvert in the state final.
The Owls’ run ended there, however, with a 3-0 loss to the Patriots. Jilienne Widener, the two-time Times Player of the Year, is one of six first-team all-countians who should return for Carroll teams in 2018.
Look for Liberty to contend for a CCAL crown as well. The Lions were 10-2 in county play last fall and handed Westminster its lone regular-season defeat. Setter Ali Whitworth and hitter Lydia Leiner, both all-county picks, are likely back.