In their run of 10 straight county championships, the South Carroll Cavaliers have always been able to find a way to win down the stretch.
So when they battled back from a two-goal deficit to get even with Westminster midway through the fourth quarter last night, there was no reason to believe this go-around would be any different.
Westminster had another idea.
It was the Owls, behind another solid effort from their top midfield, who came up bigger late to pull out a 12-11 home win in the county opener for both teams.
Senior midfielder Ryan Fisher led the way with four goals and an assist, while linemate James Unglesbee added three goals and an assist as the Owls beat the Cavs for only the second time in 22 tries.
The last time Westminster defeated South Carroll, in the 1994 county opener, was the last time the Cavs lost a county game.
For Westminster, it was indeed special.
"We kept with it all night -- it took heart," said Fisher. "We needed to be in it physically and mentally. We wanted to play our game and control the tempo."
After a shaky start in which South Carroll (3-3) jumped out to a 4-1 lead, the Owls (5-2) settled in with a patient attack, chipping away and finally getting even at 6 when Fisher scored with 5: 08 left in the first half.
They took a 7-6 lead -- their first -- in the opening minute of the third quarter when Unglesbee took a feed from Ryan Elwelland added to it when Fisher scored 12 seconds later.
With the Owls leading 9-7 early in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers made their run. Ryan Blair (four goals, one assist) scored two goals from the same spot, parked along the right side of the net, a minute apart to tie the score at 9.
After the Cavaliers won the faceoff and worked their way in the Westminster end, Owls defender Kris Kanzler scooped up a loose ball and found Nick Beser with a long outlet pass. Beser scored with 5: 39 left to again give the Owls a lead.
"We've never given up yet. They have confidence that if we have to get a goal someone will go out and get it," said Westminster coach Jim Peters.
Twice the Owls pushed the lead back to two goals only to find South Carroll answer with a goal.
After South Carroll's Will Gunther scored with 58 seconds left to close the gap to 12-11, the Cavaliers had one last possession, but Westminster goalie Garrett Franz (nine saves) jumped on a loose ball in front of the crease with 11 seconds left to run out the clock.
"We lost it fundamentally," said South Carroll coach Jeff Alisauckas. "Westminster played a good game, and you have to give them credit. They controlled the ball in the second and third quarters, and if you don't have the ball, you can't score."
All three South Carroll losses this season have been by one goal.
Pub Date: 4/11/97