Opponents of the John Carroll girls soccer team are beginning to learn that challenging the defending Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland champs is one thing, and defeating them is another.
The fifth-ranked Patriots used a 7-5 penalty-kicks shootout to slip past No. 9 North Carroll two hours after narrowly avoiding another upset bid by 12th-ranked Glenelg to capture the Panther Invitational in Hampstead yesterday for the second consecutive season.
With victories over No. 4 Severna Park and then-eighth ranked Loch Raven, John Carroll (4-0) has defeated four top-15 teams.
Senior goalkeeper Maggie Pyzik said she was most impressed by her team's perseverance against the Panthers, who lost their first after four wins.
"We didn't play as well as we could have, but when it came down to it, we did what we had to do," said Pyzik, who had 18 saves in two games and allowed just one goal.
Patriots coach Gary Lynch said he relished the opportunity for his young squad - only four players are seniors - to show their mettle in the penalty-kick shootout.
"This makes them mature quickly," Lynch said. "It puts some years on me, so I hope it puts some experience on them."
After 100 minutes of scoreless soccer between John Carroll and North Carroll, the teams went to the shootout, where 11 players from each side participated.
The Patriots took a 3-2 lead in the shootout after Pyzik blocked an attempt by junior defender Brandy Jenkins.
After trading goals and misses, John Carroll extended the lead to 6-4 when junior forward Morgon Russell booted a shot into the top left corner.
The Patriots earned the victory when North Carroll sophomore defender Heather Tomko shot the ball over the net.
Panthers coach Jim MacDonald said he was pleased to see his team rebound from a humbling 4-0 loss to John Carroll in last year's championship game.
"They rose to the occasion and felt that they could play with John Carroll," MacDonald said. "Sometimes you need a break to win a game like this."
The Patriots advanced to the tournament final by edging Glenelg, 2-1, on the strength of a goal by senior midfielder Lindsay Syphard at 2:19 of the first overtime.
"I certainly think that we surprised them a little bit," said Gladiators assistant coach Dean Sheridan. "We certainly knew that in the second half, they would come back, but we stayed with them."
North Carroll advanced to the final with a 6-0 pasting of Towson. The Generals (0-5) lost, 5-0, to the Gladiators in the consolation final.