UNIONTOWN — Michelle Hodiak wants her Francis Scott Key girls lacrosse team to learn something from every game.
Many times, the lesson is tough to see. Carroll County Athletic League play is difficut for the Eagles, who this season were outscored by 108 goals and lost all six contests. But Hodiak, in her first year as Key's coach, said the plan remains in place.
"These girls have the biggest heart I've ever seen on a team," Hodiak said after Monday's game against Smithsburg, a 10-9 loss. "They can take a beating in county, and they rise to the occasion. They're going to stay classy on the field and they're going to try their hardest.
"We set goals for ourselves, and it might not be the win. But if we know, like, 'Hey, let's not get a shutout,' or 'Let's get five goals this game,' we aim for it. … If we set it for them, they're going to get it."
The Eagles (2-8) battled a team they might very well see again in a few weeks when the Class 1A West Region playoffs begin. Smithsburg (4-6) built an 8-5 lead early in the second half before Francis Scott Key stormed back with four consecutive goals.
The fourth came with 2 minutes, 41 seconds remaining, from Delaney Stalnaker on a free-position attempt — Stalnaker's shot rattled in off the crossbar, which stunned the sophomore and her FSK teammates momentarily before the officials signaled the goal. The Eagles had their first lead since halftime, but it didn't last long.
Leopards senior attacker Nora Stocksdale converted her own free-position goal 41 seconds later, tying the score at 9-9. Smithsburg goalie Caitlin Ford made a crucial save in the final minute, which allowed her team to gain possession and set up a game-winning attempt.
It came from Stocksdale, her fourth of the game, with 11 seconds to go from short range.
Francis Scott Key's last chance to tie was a dash downfield and a shot from long range that Ford gobbled up, and Smithsburg escaped.
The Eagles dropped their fifth in a row but competed in a game until the final seconds for the first time in weeks, and Hodiak said she could see the effort on the field.
Stalnaker and freshman Emily Beahm had three goals apiece to lead FSK, and each player had an assist.
Jordan Hardesty, Key's senior goalie, made her own statement with 14 saves — nine of which came in the first half to keep things close.
The county results weren't close — FSK lost those games by a combined 116-8 — but Hardesty said they toughen up the Eagles for what's to come.
"In county games I feel like we play so much harder," Hardesty said. "When we play out-of-county teams, I feel like sometimes we stoop to their level but we always find a way to rise above it."
It might not show up as a team win, Hardesty and Hodiak said, but it helps Key strengthen its bond as a unit.
That could be a focal point for the postseason.
Francis Scott Key's 1A West Section 1 includes Western Tech, Randallstown, and Pikesville from Baltimore County. Section 2 features Brunswick and Catoctin from Frederick County, and Boonsboro and Smithsburg from Washington County.
Hodiak had the Eagles scrimmage Pikesville before the regular season began, and they beat Catoctin 16-2 on April 11. A rematch with Smithsburg wouldn't take place until the regional final.
"They have the heart and they have the will, and they want you to challenge them," Hodiak said. "In county, when we get challenged, I think it only makes us better for playoffs."
Carroll County Daily Headlines
Goals: S-Nora Stocksdale 4, Morgan Brenk 2, Savannah Gibson 2, Erin Bryce 2; FSK-Delaney Stalnaker 3, Emily Beahm 3, Madison Johnson, Cameron Heflin, Madison Johnson.
Assists: S-Stocksdale 2, Brenk; FSK-Samantha Beahm, E. Beahm.
Saves: S-8 (Caitlin Ford); FSK-14 (Jordan Hardesty).
Halftime: FSK, 5-4.