This was another one of those classic Carroll County field hockey games that featured fast-paced, end-to-end action for 60 minutes between the top two teams in the county.
It was No. 8 North Carroll against No. 10 Westminster, with the Panthers having a chance to clinch the county title with a victory.
But the Owls put on a field hockey clinic last night, swarming the North Carroll cage relentlessly for high-percentage shots that eventually paid off in a 2-0 win at North Carroll.
Kristy Matthai and Ann Brennan scored, and freshmen Becky Towns and Nikki Cornell had assists. Towns was playing in her first varsity game.
Matthai has scored four goals in the last two games, getting three Monday against Thomas Johnson.
All the Owls (3-1 in the county, 5-2 overall) need to do to wrap up the county championship is to defeat Liberty (1-2, 3-2) in Eldersburg Oct.
North Carroll (4-2, 5-2) needs a Liberty upset of Westminster and a win over Liberty Oct. 20 to capture its second straight county title.
Backed into a corner before last night's game, Westminster co-coaches Sue Hooper and Brenda Baker did two things to light a fire under their team.
They called up the high-scoring Towns (12 goals in six games) from the junior varsity and told their players in a pre-game speech that they had to win or else North Carroll would be the champion.
Sometimes, high school field hockey coaches do not like to put too much pressure on their players before a game by reminding them that a championship is on the line.
But Hooper and Baker thought the timing was right last night for applying some pressure to their squad and it worked.
Westminster dominated the game for several minutes at a time but North Carroll struck back with a flurry of shots.
Matthai put the Owls ahead 1-0 midway through the first half when she scored from 20 feet out off a pass from Cornell.
North Carroll threatened early in the second half to tie the game with a spree of four straight shots. The Panthers eventually got a shot by Jill Ballard to go in the cage with 20 minutes left, but the goal was nullified by a high-sticking call.
That proved to be the final high-percentage scoring opportunity for North Carroll, as Westminster kept the ball in the Panthers' end of the
field most of the rest of the game.
With 56 seconds remaining, Brennan and Towns led a fast break that resulted in Brennan's scoring and Towns' getting an assist for the 2-0 lead.
Towns, a transfer from Seaford, Del., showed speed, agility and aggressiveness throughout the game and didn't back down from anybody.