When a lacrosse team scores 16 goals in a single game, its defensive players usually get overlooked.
But there was no ignoring Southern junior keeper Crystal Bennett, whose aggressiveness and quick reflexes in the nets played an important role in the top-seeded Bulldogs' 16-7 rout of third-seeded Towson in the Class 2A-1A Region IV girls final yesterday.
Bennett made 17 saves, often leaving her post to stuff a Generals shot, or staying back and getting a part of her body on the ball. Both methods proved effective, especially in the second half, when Towson was limited to three goals and Southern put the game out of reach.
"Sometimes, [Coach Linda Kilpatrick] will tell me to stay in because I come out too often," Bennett said, after helping Southern to the 2A-1A state semifinals Friday at Catonsville Community College.
Kilpatrick gave Bennett the green light yesterday, and that stopped the Generals in their tracks.
"She had a terrible game the other day [a 21-9 win over Owings Mills last Friday], and I was so glad to see her have a really good game today to build her confidence back up," said Kilpatrick, whose Bulldogs missed the playoffs last season for the first time in the program's six-year existence.
"She has definitely been a plus for us this year. At the beginning of the season, I was very concerned about not having a goalie who could stop anything. She's really worked hard to develop her style, and she's had confidence in that style, and that's fine. She's more effective doing that than she is standing back, because when she stands back, she has a tendency to duck.
"She feels more confident coming out, and I'll take my chances doing that. Opposing players hate that."
The Generals couldn't have been too thrilled with Southern's offensive players, either. Sophomore Kari Sherbert had five goals and one assist, and senior Jennie Young added four goals and three assists. Seniors Rachel Gladwell and Liza Bigger scored three goals each, and senior Talaya Barnett had one.
Freshman Becky Archambo had two assists, as Southern's passing game clicked on all cylinders.
Towson (8-4) had fought back to within 7-4 with 9:01 left in the first half on goals from Carolyn Breese and Kristin Carey.
Sherbert retaliated two minutes later with a free-position shot that glanced off the shoulder of Generals keeper Edith Scoten and into the net. Southern then went on a tear, scoring four goals in the final 2:42 -- including two from Gladwell -- to take a 12-4 lead.
Bennett made three saves to close the half, charging forward to reject a shot as time expired.
"We had a little lull in there," Kilpatrick said, "and I told them at halftime the last couple minutes were excellent. The offense did a very good job. The way they scored those, I was really pleased -- moving the ball, backing it out a few times, setting it up, passing the ball."
Southern is 10-4 and ranked eighth in the metro area going into its game Friday against an undetermined opponent, and Kilpatrick said, "I'm not concerned about our record at all. We play the toughest competition in the state. Even though Loch Raven and Mount Hebron are ranked 1 and 2, we still play tough competition day in and day out."
Carey and Lindsey Buchanan scored two goals each for Towson, which defeated Pikesville, 8-3, in the semifinals. Breese, Becky Hohman and Tiffany Lange had one each.
"We played [Monday], and they didn't, and I think that hurt us," said Generals coach Sue Beeler. "We were sort of in slow motion. I'd like to play them again, but that score might not change."