Century girls lacrosse coach Becky Groves said she has been anticipating this season since the day the 2017 season ended — and rightfully so.
The Knights won the Class 2A-1A state championship and split the Carroll County Athletic League title with Manchester Valley and Westminster. They outscored their playoff opponents 107-14 prior to defeating Fallston 13-8 in the state final, good for the team’s fifth state championship in nine years.
Spring sports started practicing March 1 and the Knights have been piecing together their team chemistry.
“We had some great leaders last year like Michaela [Connolly] and Caroline [Glenn] and Kylie [Davis],” sophomore midfielder Grace Bruce said. “All those seniors last year set a really good standard of what we need to step up to. Kelsey Morrison and the other seniors really stepped up this year and are becoming great leaders already. I think they just know how to control the team and I think we’re going to be good. It’s going to be a great year.”
The Knights are young this season, fielding just four seniors, three juniors, 12 sophomores, and two freshmen.
“We have very limited upperclassmen so they’re doing a good job of stepping up and setting the tone of what things are like here at Century and what the expectations are,” Groves said. “Our sophomores have a year under their belt that were up here last year since we had nine last year so they know what it’s like up here. They’re doing a good job of welcoming everybody in.”
Bruce led the county with 76 goals last year and added 17 assists en route to earning Times first team all-county honors. Sophomore Christina Haspert also returns from last year’s all-county team after posting 56 goals and 21 assists.
Connolly, the Times Player of the Year in 2017, and all-county defender Glenn graduated after posting successful senior seasons, capping them off by leading the Knights to their state title victory.
Morrison, a senior midfielder and team captain this year, is anxious to see what this year’s Knights are capable of.
“I think a lot of people know we had Michaela and them leave so they’re looking forward to stepping up and fulfilling those spots,” Morrison said. “We’re looking forward to trying to go far this year, but we still have a lot of improvement to work on.”
Manchester Valley graduated 14 seniors from last year’s team that included Times first-teamers Lauren Bredenburg, Kate Brewster, Madi Carr, and Beanie Colson.
Westminster suffered a heartbreaking loss to Bel Air, the eventual 4A-3A state champ, in the regional final, but return Madi Macera from last season’s all-county team to add depth.
Liberty advanced to the state semifinals last season, but saw its state championship hopes cut short with a loss to county foe Century. The Lions graduated all-countians Rachel Cueva and Grace Griffin, including nine other seniors, so the team will look to field talent across the board.
Francis Scott Key has a new coach in Michelle Hodiak this year and is looking forward to bringing the team together to build wins in 2018.
South Carroll and Winters Mill each earned one county win in 2017, but bring back talent at all positions to look for success this season. The Falcons have senior Anna Diffendal, the team’s leader with 35 goals last year.
South Carroll returns as the reigning county champions after capturing the title for the first time in 35 years. The Cavaliers advanced to the 2A state championship game for the first time in program history, but lost to North Caroline.
Returning to the pitcher’s circle is Chloe Sharman, a Cavaliers senior and the reigning Times Player of the Year. Sharman led the county with 171 strikeouts in 2017.
Man Valley and Winters Mill both posted 8-4 county records and return a handful of talent, despite losing just as much to graduation. Look for the Mavs to divide pitching duties between Stephanie Barksdale and Megan Cappadora. The Falcons finished the season at 11-8, one of the program’s most successful records to date. Taylor Glover is back from last year’s all-county team.
Liberty graduated starting pitcher Lexi Trail and the team’s batting average leader in Brooke Fowlkes, but return sophomore catcher Jordan Nastos along with a talented group of leaders that coach Chris Szocik expects to fill those roles.
Century has a young roster this season, but are returning much of its talent from last year with hopes of contending for the CCAL title. Back for the Knights are sophomore utility player Olivia Carmack and senior catcher Gillian Sinnott from last year’s all-county team.
Francis Scott Key posted just one county victory last season and will look for a positive showing in 2018. Returning to the lineup is sophomore infielder Gabby Archie, a first-team all-countian in 2017.
Westminster won a 3A state championship in 2016, but the Owls’ record saw a slight decline in 2017. Three of the team’s starters graduated, but senior Olivia Herman is back — Herman led the county in batting average and doubles last season.