ELDERSBURG — Century's girls lacrosse players showered coach Becky Groves with a cooler filled of ice and water at the conclusion of Thursday's game.
The Knights had just defeated Manchester Valley 13-12 in a back and forth battle — their first win over the Mavericks in four years. And now Century, Manchester Valley, and Westminster each share a piece of the county title as a result of Century's win.
Man Valley beat Westminster earlier in the season, and Westminster beat Century last Friday to give each team matching 5-1 records against Carroll foes.
Freshman midfielder Grace Bruce cut through the middle and fired a shot from senior attacker Michaela Connolly through the top left corner of the net with 39 seconds to play to give the Knights the one-goal edge.
Man Valley gained possession off the final draw but the Mavs were unable to force overtime.
"We definitely played the whole entire game as a team and it's so easy for us on offense because we all work together so well," Connolly said. "When they're doubling and marking up really tight, it's so easy to find the open girl when we spread and move the ball. Grace does a great job of waiting for the open cut and it's so easy to see her. She cuts, shoots and scores, it's the best."
"We couldn't have made that goal without the defense and Michaela does a great job of finding the open cutter and being patient behind the goal," Bruce added.
There was never more than a three-goal lead between the teams all night. The Knights (11-2, 5-1) got on the board first and Mavericks junior midfielder Tayler Warehime responded with back to back goals within seconds to give the Mavs a 2-1 lead.
It became 3-1 when Mavs sophomore midfielder Jeri Garland netted a free position tally on the man-up advantage with 16:04 left to play in the first half. Connolly and freshman attacker Christina Haspert connected to trim the deficit 3-2 and Connolly tied it up with 12:57 to go.
Mavs senior goalie Kate Brewster, who made five saves in the contest, made a pair of crucial saves with 9:33 on the clock. The teams continued to trade goals and the Mavericks carried a 7-6 lead into the break.
"I think we finally played two halves," Groves said. "We've had bright spots where we've played for a half or 15 minutes of a half but we've never played a full game and I think we actually played a full game tonight."
The Mavs went on a 3-0 run in a two-minute span and senior midfielder Beanie Colson made it 10-7 with 21:15 still to play. Century scored the next three and senior defender Caroline Glenn intercepted a pass to set up a fourth straight Knights goal to tie it 10-10.
A goal was waved off for Man Valley due to an offsides call with 8:07 to go — the teams were tied 11-11. Each team struck again to tie it 12-12 until Bruce the game-winning goal, her third of the night.
"We really came out with the fact that we had nothing to lose," Connolly said. "They have beat us the past three or four years so everybody on the team was fired up, ready to go. ... We all just believed in ourselves and worked together and I think that team aspect we have is the reason why we can come out and win games the way that we've been winning. It's just really great to be on this team."
Warehime scored a game-high five goals on the night and Colson added two goals and an assist for the Mavericks (9-2, 5-1).
Bruce and Haspert, both freshmen, each scored three goals for the Knights and their contributions have been key to the team's offense. Groves appreciates that, as well as the leadership from her veteran players that includes Connolly, Carroll's points leader with 115 (51 goals, 64 assists).
"I think the biggest thing for us and for the freshmen is that we're really working as a team," Groves said. "In the past we've had, I would say, more all-stars but this year we're a better team and the freshmen are a huge part of that because they're learning how to utilize everyone on the field."
Carroll County Daily Headlines
Goals: MV-Jeri Garland 3, Beanie Colson 2, Kyleigh Masteran, Tayler Warehime 5, Lauren Cremen; C-Michaela Connolly 2, Kaitlyn Huber, Julia Hatmaker 2, Grace Bruce 3, Kelsey Morrison 2, Christina Haspert 3.
Assists: MV-Colson; C-Connolly 6, Bruce.
Saves: MV-5 (Kate Brewster); C-6 (Hannah Basso).
Halftime: MV, 7-6.