The John Carroll girls soccer team is busy carving out its own identity early this season - one that's bringing familiar results.
With a made-to-order goal early in the first half and an organized defensive effort the rest of the way, the No. 5-ranked Patriots were able to hold off No. 4 Severna Park, 1-0, yesterday afternoon in Bel Air.
Much like last year's team that finished with 20 wins and the area's No. 1 ranking, this year's version - minus eight players including Player of the Year midfielder Jen Biscoe - is having success by playing to its strengths.
The goal, a clean volley from junior striker Liz Saul, was a prime example.
Lindsey Syphard sent a through ball down the right side for Amy Graul, who crossed a ball to the far post for a waiting Saul.
"I'm pretty used to finishing off chances like that. I just wanted to be ready for it," said Saul, who made no mistake from 8 yards out. "But I don't see it as me scoring the winning goal. The whole team won this game. We have heart and all push ourselves - today it showed."
Severna Park (4-2) spent a good part of the second half pressing for the equalizer, but the Patriots (2-0) patiently contained on defense.
Kerry VanShura stayed with Severna Park striker Kerie Sample touch for touch; Morgan Russell played a strong game at sweeper and goalie Maggie Pyzik finished with nine saves. All this without first-team All-Metro defender Shannon Seipp, who left the game after two minutes hobbling on a bad knee.
"We're pretty strong in the back. If we can get a goal we'll be able to stay with any team," said John Carroll coach Gary Lynch. "We have a whole different middle, so we're trying to go around teams instead of through them. Last year, we ran everything through Biscoe; now, we're working through everyone. All the kids know what's expected of them."
The Falcons, also with some new players at key positions, are still experimenting with coach Chuck Seivert looking for the right mix.
He found plenty of positives to build on with yesterday's effort. The Falcons came right at John Carroll, attacking in the middle with a short passing game, but couldn't find the final touch with Sample getting most of the chances.
"We're still trying to find the right combination on defense and the right combination on offense. Once it comes, we'll be fine," Seivert said. "I'd rather play someone good like John Carroll early and build on that for the rest of the season. That' a character-building game."
Syphard did a good job all afternoon getting to the corner flags and sending over crosses for the Patriots, who also got a steady performance from Katie Wheelehan.
For Severna Park, Allison Dooley put in a hard day's work at left fullback, with midfielder Heather Pallett also doing positive things with the ball, particularly in the first half.