FREDERICK -- The expectations were high for the South Carroll field hockey team this season, and the talent level was relatively low.
But the defending state 3A champions showed flashes of excellence in their final game of the regular season, turning back Thomas Johnson, 2-1, at Thomas Johnson.
"I don't know why everybody expected so much out of us," said Cavaliers coach Stacy Stem yesterday. "Our kids were very inexperienced. We lost six starters, and we don't have that much talent."
The Cavaliers scored two goals in a stretch of 4 minutes, 22 seconds early in the second half to wipe out a 1-0 Thomas Johnson lead and virtually wrap up the second seed in Region III of the state 3A tournament.
South Carroll (5-2-5) won't be going to the state tourney with all the fanfare it had last season (15-1 record), but Stem's teams have a way of peaking in postseason play.
Thomas Johnson (5-6) needs Atholton to lose two of its last three games this week to make the Region III field.
Atholton or Thomas Johnson will most likely have the fourth seed in Region III behind No. 1 Centennial, No. 2 South Carroll and No. 3 Linganore.
The Cavaliers started coming together 1 minute, 27 seconds into the second half yesterday, when leading scorer Patti Duffy weaved her way through the Patriots for an unassisted goal, tying the game at 1.
Then at 5:49 of the second half, Alicia Sievert knocked in a rebound of a shot by Tracie DiDio to send the visitors ahead, 2-1.
Thomas Johnson coach Pam Dove tried to convince the officials that Sievert's goal was kicked in and should not have been allowed.
"Unfortunately, the last goal for South Carroll was kicked in," said Dove. "But the official said she didn't see it [kick] and couldn't change the call. We once lost a regional championship on a play like that. It's tough, but there's nothing you can do about it."
Stem said she could not tell from her position on the sidelines if the ball had been kicked in.
After the go-ahead score, South Carroll dominated the action the next 20 minutes and DiDio came close to scoring twice.
Thomas Johnson threw a scare into South Carroll with 30 seconds left, when Jennifer Banach broke through the Cavaliers' defense about 15 yards from the goal.
But just when it appeared that Banach would have a high percentage one-on-one against Cavaliers goalkeeper Katrina Crew, Banach lost control of the ball for a split second and the South Carroll defense converged on her.
Banach had given the Patriots a 1-0 lead at 19:12 of the first half, scoring on a rebound of a missed shot by Deborah Dove.
The second-half spurt enabled South Carroll to outshoot Thomas Johnson, 11-9.
Stem said her team was flat in the first half because it didn't arrive at Thomas Johnson until game time (4 p.m.) and had only 15 minutes to warm up.
"Our bus driver forgot us," said Stem. "We had to call for the driver."
According to Stem, the Cavaliers also had trouble playing on a "bumpy" Thomas Johnson field.
"Our girls were letting the ball play them instead of playing the ball in the first half," said the South Carroll coach, who is 29-5-8 in three seasons.