The practice on Friday was much more enjoyable for the North Carroll boys soccer team. Victories have a tendency to make life more fun.
On Thursday, the Panthers broke a 14-game losing streak that extended over two seasons with a come-from-behind 3-1 victory at Westlake High. New coach Denny Snyder - who also played at the school and coached the team from 1995 to 1999 - said the players are thrilled they don't have to discuss losing streaks any more.
"It's huge; you could just sense it in practice [Friday]," Snyder said. "You could tell it was something in the back of their minds. Just to get the early win, I knew it was going to be huge."
North Carroll's last win had been against Towson in the final regular-season game two years ago. The Panthers then fell in the playoffs, dropped all 12 regular-season games last year and lost their only playoff game.
It is believed to be the longest boys soccer losing streak in school history.
Snyder said the victory was even sweeter because of how the Panthers had to rally to get it. Westlake scored on its first shot just 90 seconds into the game for the lead.
"I was thinking that this will be a true judge of their character," Snyder said.
But North Carroll quickly settled down and took over. Brandon Gilmore finished a pass from Steve Bull to tie it with 17:17 left in the half. Josh Foor-Hogue got the go-ahead goal with 33:15 left in the game, and Gilmore provided the insurance 10 minutes later off a Josh Ensor assist.
Goalie Danny Nott had nine saves for the Panthers, who controlled play for much of the second half.
Another good test awaits North Carroll on Friday, with a tough Hereford team from Baltimore County. But Snyder and his players are ready and much more optimistic. After all, they don't have to talk about losing streaks any more.
"I think part of it was they felt like the monkey was off their backs," Snyder said. "They had more intensity, and since the JV won also, some of the kids were saying it was the first time we had a double win. It was great to see their smiles and hear their voices on the bus ride home."
Saunders key for Eagles
It didn't take long for former Westminster running back Eric Saunders to make an impact at Francis Scott Key.
Saunders, a first-team All-County running back who rushed for 1,085 yards and 11 touchdowns last season for the Owls before transferring, gained 28 yards on an inside handoff the first time he touched the ball for the Eagles on Thursday night. He went on to gain 160 yards rushing, as well as 283 all-purpose yards, in Key's 24-0 victory over host North Carroll.
It was the kind of performance first-year coach John Baugher hopes to see more of when the Eagles get into the meat of their Monocacy Valley Athletic League schedule, starting with this week's home opener against defending champion Middletown.
"Eric has definitely brought that added dimension," Baugher said. "I think what he's going to do, because he's going to be a threat on the outside, he's going to hopefully open up plays [on the inside]."
Liberty volleyball rolls on
The Liberty volleyball team extended its regular-season winning streak to 19 with Thursday's season-opening 15-0, 15-1, 15-3 win over Linganore. The last time coach Dave Trumbo's squad lost a non-playoff match was Oct. 12, 2000, against Thomas Johnson.
The Lions are likely to extend the streak to 20 Thursday against out-manned Urbana.
For a team that started 17-0 last season before falling to Severna Park in the Class 3A state semifinals, winning is certainly nothing new. The Lions' rotation, however, features just one returning starter - County Player of the Year Laura Shand - in addition to a bunch of players who either spent last year on the bench or the JV team.
"Even though we have one returning starter, we have four other girls that were on that team," Trumbo said. "They were in that environment, they worked like crazy in practice and they were unselfish."
With the additions of 5-foot-10 sisters Emily and Meghan McConville and 5-11 Stacey Krebs, the Lions are also taller than they were a year ago.
As for the streak, Trumbo says it's better left on the back burner.
"I haven't even brought it up," Trumbo said.
Not bad, for starters
For a team in its first game at the varsity level, Century's football team didn't make a bad showing Thursday against Liberty.
Sticking primarily with the run, the Knights came up with nine first downs in the first half, and drove inside the Lions' 35 six times in the game. In the end, five turnovers - not to mention fatigue caused by having only 18 healthy players - doomed coach Matt Flanagan's squad in a 20-2 loss.
"We saw the films and knew we would be able to get something on the weak side," Flanagan said. "We were very, very pleased."
The game was one of only two in the county this season for Century, which is playing an independent schedule before becoming an official member of the combined Central Maryland Conference-Monocacy Valley Athletic League next season. This season's slate includes five games against Howard County opponents, as well as a road game against Martinsburg, the West Virginia 3A state runner-up.