ELDERSBURG — Century freshman Maddie Lopata was amid a cluster of her Knights teammates in front of Liberty’s goal when sophomore forward Kara Stach flicked the ball into the cluster.
Lopata saw her chance, ran through the ball, and watched it meet the back of the net before Lions goalie Caitlin Mulholland could recover it. That goal turned out to be all Century needed to defeat the Lions, and capture their first Carroll County Athletic League title since 2016, and seventh outright overall.
Liberty hosted the Knights on Senior Night, and honored the team’s 12 seniors. The Lions put the Knights to work during the remainder of the game, and got a few close scoring chances in the last five minutes.
Still, Century held on to close out the regular season undefeated.
“I think we just continued to battle the entire game,” Knights coach Sara Figuly said. “Both teams had a lot of opportunities and we were able to get the ball down there and finally finish one.”
Liberty senior forward Emily Jarboe had a close scoring chance with 28:16 left in the first half when Century goalie Jordyn Vanarsdale came out to challenge senior forward Alanna Wray. Wray fed the ball to Jarboe, who shot the ball too high over the goal.
Mulholland made a pair of timely saves in the first half — first in a cluster of players in front of the goal, and another about five minutes later when she leaped up and caught the ball before it could be touched by a Century player.
The Knights (13-0, 6-0 CCAL) had a few set piece opportunities in the first half, but they were either pushed out by Liberty’s defense or shot too wide. The teams were tied 0-0 at the break.
Liberty notched an early scoring chance in the second half when Wray fed the ball to junior midfielder Emma Bauer on the left of the Lions’ offensive attack. Bauer took a low shot, but the ball drifted right past the left side of the goal and out of bounds.
The Knights retaliated and got its offense going to put high pressure on the Lions’ defense. Lions senior defender Grace Maciejewski cleared a shot just in time after Mulholland challenged a Knights forward, and the ball was back in play.
Century senior Emma McGraw took a shot that flew just over the top of the goal, and the Knights took a trio of set pieces before Lopata’s goal connected with the back of the net.
“I was nervous, but I was ready for this,” said Vanarsdale, who made 11 saves. “I’ve been prepping all day, been in the right mindset, and I just know what I have to do. These games make me focused to perform at my best."
Liberty entered Friday’s county clash on a four-game win streak, and the Lions defeated South Carroll Thursday to set up Friday’s county championship clash. Mulholland made 16 saves for the Lions (11-3, 5-1).
The Knights have won eight county titles dating back to 2002. They won four outright from 2012 to 2016, and split with Manchester Valley in 2014.
“I feel great,” Vanarsdale said. “I came in here sophomore year, and I think we’ve just grown since then. It’s been really rewarding to see how far we’ve come and what we’ve done with the talent we have.”
Goals: C-Maddie Lopata.
Assists: C-Kara Stach.
Saves: C-11 (Jordyn Vanarsdale); L-16 (Caitlin Mulholland).
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Halftime: Tied, 0-0.