WOODBINE — Kristin Gruber skipped onto the field before Monday’s Class 1A West Region 1 semifinal between Winters Mill and South Carroll, eager to lead the Cavaliers with her energy and “fire.”
The senior forward harnessed that energy on the field as well — Gruber knocked in two goals within the first five minutes of play, lifting the Cavs past the Falcons 3-0 at Western Regional Park and sending them into Wednesday’s regional final against Liberty.
“It just boosts our motivation and pushes us to do better,” Gruber said. “It gets the other team down knowing we just got an early goal, and we’ve got to keep pushing to keep getting more goals.”
South Carroll (9-6) won its third game in a row and played for the first time in nine days, but didn’t show too many signs of rust in the early going. Gruber scored 49 seconds into the game, and posted her second goal with 25:10 to play in the first half.
Winters Mill (3-11) stiffened on defense after that, but the Cavaliers added a third goal with less than three minutes remaining when Gruber assisted Brooke Moffatt with a short pass from along the end line.
“We need that early lead so we’re more comfortable,” Gruber said. “But we can’t get too comfortable, because then we’re going to get down.”
South Carroll coach Julie Radnoff didn’t like the flow of Monday’s game, albeit the Cavs’ sixth shutout and third in a row. Neither team managed a penalty corner try until SC garnered one with 6:50 remaining in the game. Radnoff said she felt both teams were hindered by inconsistency from the officials, but her message during timeouts was one SC has heard all year long.
“Our motto ... has been ‘Keep battling,’ and that’s what we did today,” Radnoff said. “We kept battling.”
The reigning 1A state champions went 3-3 in Carroll County Athletic League play this fall, but opened their 2018 title defense with a convincing win. Meghan Radnoff, one of South Carroll’s nine seniors, notched an assist to add to her team scoring lead (seven goals, six assists).
Winters Mill absorbed the early deficit and did its best to stay in the game, but couldn’t come up with any offense. Falcons coach Christine Bradley said production has been an issue throughout the fall.
“It’s the same thing ... we can control an entire game and still not score,” Bradley said. “I don’t know if it’s the lack of hunger to score, or just not getting in the right place. But that is what kills us every game.”
Bradley said the team’s skill level and knowledge of the game have improved over her four-year tenure, and she praised several players for their performances Monday. Sophia Smith, a sophomore, stood out on defense, with help from junior Allie Williams. And Sarah Ritchey, a senior, came up with some big saves.
Winters Mill loses eight seniors, but Bradley said she’s excited for a crop of new players coming into the program in 2020.
Meanwhile, South Carroll gets another shot at its county rival Wednesday. Liberty edged the Cavaliers 1-0 on Sept. 16 en route to an undefeated regular season.
“We’re excited,” Gruber said. “In the past, they’ve beaten us. Now we know, this is our chance. We’ve got to go now and push it with all we’ve got because we want to keep moving forward.”
Goals: SC-Kristin Gruber 2, Brooke Moffatt.
Assists: SC-Gruber, Meghan Radnoff.
Saves: WM-16 (Sarah Ritchey); SC-0 (Rachel Hagler).
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Halftime: SC, 2-0.