Century and Liberty were about five minutes away from needing overtime — or penalty kicks — to determine a winner for the third time in four postseason meetings between the teams.
Kara Stach made sure that didn’t happen.
Haley Greenwade created a breakaway opportunity for the Knights, and her shot bounced off Liberty goalie Caitlin Mulholland, who went to the ground. With the ball still in play, Stach edged it into the goal, and the sophomore’s teammates swarmed her in celebration.
Stach’s goal proved to be the game-winner as the Knights defeated Liberty 1-0 in a Class 2A West Region 1 final Tuesday to remain unbeaten this season.
“You could see the offensive unit pressuring and pushing and continuing to work and I’m like we’re going to get one if we keep this up,” Knights coach Sara Figuly said. “They can’t always see it on the field because they're out there but from the sideline you can see Haley about to win the ball, and this one [Kara] came flying down the field.
“That’s when it’s really cool to watch these two play together, just watching them run down the field together and work together to make that happen.
This was a rematch for the county foes, and Century defeated Liberty 1-0 on Oct. 18 to win the Carroll County Athletic League title. On Saturday, the Lions defeated Glenelg in penalty kicks and Century shut out Oakland Mills to set up Tuesday’s rematch. Both squads received first-round byes.
Century’s victory over Liberty marked the team’s 10th shutout this season, and the Knights will play in the state quarterfinals Friday or Saturday.
The Lions took two set-piece chances in the first half, and the first was caught by Jordyn Vanarsdale, who made five saves in goal for the Knights (15-0).
Vanarsdale also caught a pair of free-kick chances from the Lions in the first half.
Junior midfielder Ella Hollinger took a corner kick for the Knights with 17:42 left to play, and the ball came close to deflecting off the foot of a Lions’ player and into the goal before the rest of the defense pushed the ball out to midfield.
Hollinger later crossed a ball in from the left side to Stach making a run toward the goal, but Stach was called offside.
“Getting the ball back and forth and not just trying to dribble straight on,” Stach said. “Passing it around from sideline to sideline and finding that opening really helps us balance what they're doing against us and eventually finding the opening and getting a chance to score.”
The Knights took a pair of shots in the first 10 minutes of play in the second half, and both were caught by Mulholland. Mulholland, who made 12 saves for the Lions (12-4), notched two of those back-to-back with 17:26 left in the second half.
Knights senior defender Grace Anderson took a free kick from 12 yards out, but her low shot hit the left goal post and out of play. Greenwade challenged Mulholland late in the half, but Mulholland kicked the ball away before the sophomore could finish.
“I want to give [Mulholland] their goalie a lot of credit because she made it very, very hard for us,” Figuly said. “We always know it’s going to be a hard game against Liberty and we knew it was going to be really really close and we’re just happy that we were the ones that came out on top.”
Century needed two overtime periods to defeat Liberty in the 2A West playoffs in 2016, and the Knights earned a trip to the state semifinals that year. The Lions defeated the Knights in penalty kicks in 2017, and the teams did not face each other in the 2018 postseason.
Morrison was a sophomore when her sudden-death penalty shot was blocked by Mulholland in the 2A West playoffs in 2017 — Erin Hobbs made the next shot to secure the win for Liberty. Morrison clapped and pumped up the crowd as she took her place on the field before the second half started Tuesday.
“I’m so pumped,” she said. “This is the farthest I’ve made it since sophomore year, it’s awesome and so much fun.”
Goals: C-Kara Stach.
Saves: L-12 (Caitlin Mulholland); C-5 (Jordyn Vanarsdale).
Halftime: Tied, 0-0.