Paced by Michaela Connolly, the Times Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, Century defeated Fallston 13-5 in the 2A/1A state final for their fifth title in nine years.
Michaela Connolly wanted to prove people wrong this season.
Century's girls lacrosse team saw its season end earlier than they would have liked last year when they lost to North Carroll in the regional playoffs.
Afterward, Connolly approached Knights coach Becky Groves and asked her what they were going to do next year — valuable players were graduating, and Connolly had an inkling that things were going to be different.
Have no fear, Groves told her.
Century's veteran talent, mixed with a handful of freshmen, proved to be just what the Knights needed to cap off their ultimate goal — win a state title. Paced by Connolly, the Times Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, the Knights defeated Fallston 13-5 in the 2A/1A state final for their fifth title in nine years.
"I always come in with high expectations," Connolly said. "I knew the freshmen were going to be good and they were, they were really an impact to our team this year. Everybody just really stepped up and we played really well as a team. I think that's why we were so successful. No one was selfish, everyone worked together."
The Duquesne-bound attacker led the county with 73 goals this season, but perhaps her most impressive asset is her 91 assists.
Connolly's 164 points is believed to be a single-season county record.
She knew how to score for her team, but Connolly utilized her all-around skills to help the Knights triumph.
"I think Michaela being player of the year, she truly was the player of the year," Groves said. "In that sense, she made everyone on the team better. She came through with scoring; she made other people look good. I think people underestimated her and what she could do for her teammates, but she just had an incredible season."
Softball was the first sport Connolly played as a young girl, but it wasn't the type of game she envisioned for her future — it was too slow, she said. Her dad put her in club lacrosse with Hero's of Howard County at age 11, and she was immediately drawn to the pace of the game.
"There's so many good players in Howard County and I think playing with them ... was what really helped me decide that I wanted to play," Connolly said. "It's such a fast game, it's such a fun game and I have always played with my friends so that helped a lot too. Growing up with it has been the best part."
Groves said she knew Connolly had enough poise to be a leader and it showed early on. Connolly made the varsity team as a freshman and started, but lost that spot to an upperclassman in her sophomore year. Groves said she pushed to get that role back as a junior rather than get down on herself.
Connolly led the county in assists last spring (47) and constantly worked to make those around her better players as well. Her senior year was no different and the hard work paid off when the Knights hoisted the state title trophy at Stevenson University on May 24.
"I'm just so humbled by it all," Connolly said. "It was a great experience and it did go by really fast, it stinks. I think getting to play with so many talented players the past four years has been something that has helped me grow into a lot better of a player than I thought I could have been.
"Playing for great coaches, my teammates pushing me every single day and my competition every year pushing me to be better have been the best parts. Getting to really be a part of the state championship this year was really special to me."
Connolly, who officially visited Duquesne on Valentine's Day, was exposed to a snowy Pittsburgh for the first time. She said she fell in love with the atmosphere and hopes to become an impact player for the Dukes in the near future — similar to what she did at Century.
"We've had great lacrosse players and great scorers, but Michaela really was the best because she made everyone better," Groves said. "I really think that's why she's the player of the year. When we were selecting the [all-Carroll County Athletic League] team, we thought who would we choose first and she's a huge piece of the puzzle that makes the team complete."
Century: Julia Hatmaker, Kelsey Morrison. Francis Scott Key: Jordan Grey. Gerstell: Georgia Blake. Liberty: Jenny Anuszewski, Rachel Cueva. Manchester Valley: Ali Johnston, Kyleigh Masteran. South Carroll: Abbey Behn, Riley Evans, Christina White. Westminster: Amy Jarvis, Sydney McDonald, Anna Ruby, Sara Tyssowski. Winters Mill: Abby Howard, Sarah Rhoads.