Friday's girls lacrosse clash between Manchester Valley and Westminster featured a handful of the county's top offensive players, so it figured the county rivals each leaned on their defense to become the deciding factor.
In the end, the Owls' unit was a bit better.
Westminster did enough to limit Man Valley's weapons, and used the advantage to craft a 9-6 victory at Ruby Field to take the Class 3A West Section 1 semifinal.
"We knew that we had to communicate, and we knew the people that we had to guard," said Haleigh Moore, a junior defender. "We just knew that we had to work as a unit."
Moore got help from seniors Chloe Sankovich and Maddie Taylor, junior Emmy Bryden, and junior goalie Sara Tyssowski. The Owls' back line made things difficult for Man Valley's attack.
Tayler Warehime, Carroll's leading scorer, and Lauren Cremen, a pair of senior midfielders, combined for four goals.
Warehime came into the contest with 91 points (73 goals, 18 assists) and Cremen had 67 (43, 24). Westminster (12-3) clamped down on the Mavericks' tandem, but MV's defense succeeded in doing the same to the Owls' top threats.
The Mavs used junior Josey Klingenberg, sophomore Clare Sunderland, and senior Hannah Justice in front of senior goalie Becca Wade to limit Westminster's offense.
But a six-goal run that began late in the first half and lasted into the first 10 minutes of the second half led the Owls to the win.
Anna Ruby, a junior midfielder, had three of her four goals in the scoring spree, while senior attacker Madi Macera had two of her four in that stretch.
Hannah Dintino's goal with 16:52 to play gave Westminster a 7-3 lead, but Manchester Valley (9-5) answered with three goals in the next two-plus minutes. Warehime and Cremen each scored off free-position plays, and sophomore attacker Chloe Coppa netted a goal after a nifty dodge coming toward the goal from the near side of the field.
Westminster called a timeout, and its defense reset.
"It really revolved around communication, especially with Tayler and Lauren being such good players," Moore said. "We had to get on them and lock on."
Cremen's goal came with 10:24 remaining, but the Mavericks didn't find the net again. An unforced turnover with 4:20 to play hurt their chances of completing the comeback.
The Owls capitalized and maintained possession the rest of the way — Macera scored with 1:50 remaining, Ruby won the ensuing draw and later dumped the ball into an empty net in the waning seconds to seal it.
"One thing we've been talking about all season is that we want to minimize our fouls," Macera said. "Sometimes when we foul a lot we get frustrated … but today we played amazing and we played poised. It looked beautiful from the other side of the restraining line."
Warehime had three goals and finished her high school career with 226 — the eighth most in Carroll history. Wade kept her team close with five saves, four of which came in the second half.
MV coach Shelly Brezicki, whose squad led 3-1 midway through the first half, said via text message after the game she was "proud of my team and the growth they have made over the past two months. We left everything on the field."
Westminster moves on to the sectional final to host Rockville on Monday, two wins away from capturing a regional title. The Owls made it to a regional final last season before losing to Bel Air in overtime, a result that has been on this year's players' minds since last May.
"We have something that we want to prove to everyone," Macera said. "I think that everyone is in the same mindset. And that's only going to make us get stronger."
Added Moore: "I'm very excited to kill it on Monday."
Goals: MV-Tayler Warehime 3, Mackenzie D'Anthony, Chloe Coppa, Lauren Cremen; W-Anna Ruby 4, Madi Macera 4, Hannah Dintino.
Assists: MV-Cremen, Warehime; W-Chloe Sedlar 2, Faith Chmielewski.
Saves: MV-5 (Becca Wade); W-5 (Sara Tyssowski).
Halftime: Tied, 3-3.