WOODBINE — If South Carroll captures its first girls lacrosse regional title in more than a quarter-century, the Cavaliers’ defense will likely be the catalyst.
SC showcased its defense in Monday’s Class 2A West Section 1 final against county foe Winters Mill, which matched the Cavs’ pace for most of the first half at Western Regional Park. But South Carroll gradually wore down its opponent, led by a strong defensive effort, and advanced with a 10-5 victory.
The Cavs (13-1) move into the 2A West final, one win away from their first regional crown since 1993.
“I think as a unit, we’ve really gotten good at communicating,” said junior defender Paiton Abbott. “Our goalie is very good at coming out and pressuring. We’re overall just great at relying on one another.”
Defense led the way early in this one, on both sides.
Winters Mill’s Erin Snyder and Kolby Brown, both seniors, patrolled the back line along with sophomore Abby Sneska and freshman Leah Taylor.
South Carroll countered with juniors Abbott, Madeline Davis, and Kristen Gruber. Kennedy Evans came up with a charge early on that sparked SC, and the Cavs took another charge later in the half.
The solid play led to a smoother transition game, and set up SC’s offense. Paige Abbott, Paiton’s twin sister, netted four goals. Shannon Finch, a senior midfielder, scored two goals, and fellow senior Abbey Behn tallied two assists.
The Cavaliers led 6-3 at halftime, backed by three goals from Paige Abbott. SC netted three goals over the final 4 minutes, 33 seconds of the half to unlock a 3-3 tie, and Abbott capped the run with a free-position tally with 28 seconds to go.
When South Carroll started the second half with three more goals in a row, Winters Mill (5-12) found itself running out of time.
The Falcons played well on defense, too, and freshman goalie Heather Morey collected five saves. But some costly turnovers led to South Carroll fast-breaks, coach Amalie Meszaros said.
Winters Mill was coming off a thrilling win Saturday, 9-8 in overtime against Oakdale — the Bears were the top seed in the section before WM took them out for a second straight season.
“We talk about how all the regular-season games are really glorified scrimmages,” said Meszaros, whose team lost to South Carroll 24-9 back on April 8. “Obviously you’d like to get a better seed for the playoffs. But everybody makes the playoffs, so that’s when you’ve got to play your best. My defense played the best I’ve seen them play today. They did everything that we’ve been looking for.”
Madison Harmening had three goals to pace Winters Mill.
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Meanwhile, South Carroll advances to the 2A West final Wednesday against either Middletown or Damascus. The Cavs put together their signature win of the year when they took out Century 14-10 on Friday.
The next victory might not match last week’s in terms of intensity, but it stands to be much bigger.
“We’re very excited, because we’ve always been seen as an underdog team,” Paige Abbott said. “These last two years we’ve really been able to prove ourselves.”
Goals: WM-Madison Harmening 3, Katelyn Heffner, Megan Thomas; SC-Paige Abbott 4, Shannon Finch 2, Mia MacKenzie, Jenna McDermott, Riley Evans, Sydney Hill.
Assists: WM-Sophia Barnes; SC-Abbey Behn 2.
Saves: WM-5 (Heather Morey); SC-6 (Julia Weiss).
Halftime: SC, 6-3.