North Carroll is suddenly a strong contender for a state regional 2A field hockey tournament berth, and no one could be happier than first-year coach Denean Powelson.
Powelson promised a brighter future for the Panthers when she took control of the team in August, but few people expected this much this soon.
After all, North Carroll had a 3-9 record last year and lost nine players from that team.
But the Panthers have pulled off the unthinkable in county field hockey circles this season.
They defeated defending state 4A champion Westminster and defending state 3A champion South Carroll in back-to-back games over five days. It was shades of the mid-1980s when Powelson was playing for North Carroll and the team was a dominant force in the county.
To prove they were for real, the Panthers outplayed Westminster most of the game before losing, 2-0, in a rematch Wednesday night at North Carroll. The Owls scored two goals (both by Tinah Houck) in the final eight minutes for that victory.
"North Carroll is an aggressive team with good speed," said veteran Westminster coach Sue Hooper.
So how did Powelson, 24, turn it all around so quickly for the Panthers?
"We're a team," said Powelson. "We all get along well and they give me 100 percent until the game is over no matter what the score is. No one has more than two goals this season. Every game it is someone else who scores for us."
Sophomore forward Laurie Kreseski leads the team with two goals, and senior midfielder Tristam Corbin has been somewhat spectacular in setting up the Panthers' offense with her speed and ball control.
Junior Laura Burkhouse and sophomore Jill Ballard also have turned in strong performances in the midfield, and senior Emily Fair has been superb at the sweeper position.
Fair has helped bail junior goalkeeper Holly Saravelle out of some tough situations.
Powelson said the team began to come together in the third game of the season against highly touted South Carroll.
"We tied South Carroll [1-1] and outshot them," said the Panthers' coach. "I could tell then we were going to surprise some people."
The emergence of Kreseski and Ballard as sophomores should be a good sign for the future of North Carroll field hockey.