South Carroll has a important girls lacrosse game set for this week — two of them, actually.
The Cavaliers are 9-0, off to their best start in decades. They're 4-0 in Carroll County Athletic League play, and can win their program's first county championship with two victories this week.
South Carroll hosts Manchester Valley (4-4, 1-2) on Tuesday before visiting Westminster (9-1, 4-0) on Thursday. The Owls host Liberty on Monday, having handed Oakdale of Frederick County its first loss of the season Saturday morning (11-6).
The CCAL title will be decided this week, and the Cavs are in the equation. Some Carroll girls lacrosse enthusiasts may be a bit stunned, but SC coach Brigid McTavish isn't among them.
"I'm not surprised," McTavish said. "When they all showed up Day 1, they said, 'This is who we want to beat this year, this is what we want our record to be.' I said, 'OK, now you have to put in the hard work and achieve it.'"
The Cavaliers graduated nine seniors from last year's team that won 10 games but posted a 1-5 county record. One of the seniors happened to be their leading scorer in Mackenzie Wenczkowski (56 goals, 14 assists), meaning McTavish had some holes to fill in her lineup.
Junior attacker Abbey Behn has become South Carroll's go-to player on offense, and with 24 goals and 26 assists she leads the county in scoring. Behn had three goals and five assists in SC's win over North Hagerstown on Friday.
If the Cavs were searching for a signature win this spring, they got it April 17 against rival Century.
The Knights, a state championship squad last season and owner of one-third of last year's CCAL crown (with Westminster and Man Valley), led throughout most of the game. But South Carroll prevailed 9-7 for its first victory against Century in school history.
Not too shabby for a team with only four seniors on its roster, but McTavish said the girls' preseason motivation has carried into late April.
"These girls, they were all just like, 'No, we're ready. We're ready for the challenge,'" McTavish said. "We talked about how we have nothing to lose … so why not? Why not go out there and do it?"
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McTavish points to a new defense this spring as one of the team's strengths — a rotation of sophomores Paiton Abbott, Madeline Davis, Kristin Gruber, and Courtney Vasquenza in front of sophomore goalie Julia Weiss. Kennedy Evans, another sophomore, plays in a defensive midfield slot when needed.
Gruber is the only returning starter on defense, McTavish said.
The unit allows a mere 4.1 goals per game (37 goals in nine games).
Behn gets her share of help on offense from junior midfielder Riley Evans (12 goals, 11 assists) and junior attacker Jenna McDermott (13, seven). Kennedy Evans adds 11 goals and seven assists from the midfield.
McTavish is in her sixth year as varsity coach. She played her high school lacrosse at South Carroll — so did Rachel Bartee, her top assistant coach — before playing at Mount St. Mary's, and said returning to her alma mater was special.
So too is helping guide the Cavaliers to their best start in quite some time.
"We're getting calls and texts from girls who have graduated before us, everyone wishing us good luck … it's exciting," said McTavish, whose team doesn't appear satisfied with its success to this point. "If anything, we're going harder in practice."