Just days after overwhelming North Carroll with a barrage of flawlessly executed throw-ins in a blowout win, the Panthers came to Liberty for last night's field hockey playoff rematch prepared to take away the set plays that usually make the Lions so dangerous.
Liberty coach Ed DeVincent, however, stayed one step ahead.
The Lions used a bit of trickery to catch the Panthers off guard on a corner kick, scoring just eight minutes in and going on to a 2-1 win in a Class 3A, West first-round game.
Liberty (7-4-2), owner of a seven-game unbeaten streak, advances in the tournament, and will next travel to Montgomery County's Albert Einstein on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
The precise day and time have yet to be determined.
To get there, however, the Lions used a play that DeVincent, who scouted North Carroll in Tuesday's regular-season finale at South Carroll, drew up minutes before the game.
"I said, 'You know what? I saw them the other night, and they turn their backs sometimes [on corner kicks],' " he said. "I knew they were going to pack it in and try to stop our throw-ins and corner kicks, so we tried a little trickery."
Forward Brandon Franklin, trotted out as if to take a corner kick. Instead, however, forward Joe Fioriani, following his coach's orders, yelled, "Leave the ball," and Franklin simply nudged it a few inches forward and ran toward the goal as if to set up for someone else's corner.
When the Panthers turned their backs to follow him, Fioriani, now standing by the ball, dribbled in four or five times and fired a hard shot passed a surprised defense to make it 1-0.
"They threw the short ball in there, and we just didn't react," said North Carroll coach Denny Snyder.
Said DeVincent: "Once in a while, something like that works."
The Lions went on to make it 2-0 late in the half on R.J. Shoemaker's goal off a corner.
They held that lead until the Panthers' Jesse Gelb scored on a hard grounder with 17: 55 left. But that would be it for North Carroll, which missed another goal by inches when Jose Souto's hard liner was met with a diving save by Liberty goalie Bobby Khaksari, who was filling in for injured starter Mike Gooding (hip).
The Lions appear to be hitting their stride, and have won two straight one-goal games.
"We lost those one-goal games earlier in the year," said DeVincent. "Now, I think we're maturing a little bit. We're getting a little bit tougher mentally."