Century's girls lacrosse team is making its sixth trip to the state final in eight seasons, and the program's 12th appearance overall. This isn't unfamiliar to the Knights and certainly not to coach Becky Groves, who has taken teams to four title games and won two.
The Knights (16-3) earned a county title split with Manchester Valley and Westminster en route to making an impressive run through the Class 2A-1A West region. They outscored their opponents 107-14 through five games leading up to tonight's clash with Fallston, the 2A-1A North champion, at 6 at Stevenson University.
Their playoff run was cut short last season with a 12-11 loss in the 2A-1A West Section 1 semifinal and the Knights were determined to turn things around this year.
"We have worked really hard and we're really excited to be back," Groves said. "Last year we lost to North Carroll and I think that was something that impacted us to work harder this year to make sure that didn't happen again."
Leading the way for the Knights is senior attacker Michaela Connolly, the county's points leader with 65 goals and 85 assists. Freshmen Grace Bruce (69 goals, 14 assists) and Christina Haspert (52, 19) have equally made names for themselves as first-year varsity starters for the Knights.
Groves has eight freshmen on her roster this year and starts a handful as well. Every team is different, she said, and there are certain expectations at hand as new players enter the Century program.
That's where it all starts, Groves added, and the Knights have shown that.
"At this point, the freshmen have played in 19 games so I don't really view them as freshmen anymore," Groves said. "The seniors have done a great job with their leadership. If the flow of a game needs to be changed, Michaela and Caroline [Glenn] will talk to everybody, Julia [Hatmaker] and Hannah [Basso] too. They'll help change the flow to persevere through a tough game to carry the momentum through."
Fallston and Century have each won state titles twice in the same year, but have never met in the state tournament — until tonight.
The Knights defeated county foe Liberty 15-8 in a lightning delay-filled state semifinal Friday night at Northeast High that resumed the following morning and relocated at Mount Hebron. The Cougars (15-3) got past Queen Anne's 7-5 to advance to their second consecutive state final, looking to come out on top after falling to Manchester Valley in last year's title game.
"It's really about playing our game," Groves said. "It doesn't help to look at scores or what you did in the regular season. It comes down to those 50 minutes and you have to make sure you're ready. It doesn't matter what happened previously, you just have to play through that game."
The Knights have their focus, it's on them. Focus on the game through each and every play.
"You have to work really hard, obviously," Century freshman midfielder Kaitlyn Huber said, following Saturday's state semifinal victory. "The seniors really helped us get used to what we we're supposed to be doing and how we play. [Groves] has helped us get all of our plays together and helped us stay focused and help us work on what we need to work on."