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Untested Liberty girls lacrosse team ready for upcoming challenges

It's not that the Liberty girls lacrosse team isn't among the area's elite teams. Indeed, the Lions were off to an 8-0 start through Thursday, outscoring its past six opponents by a combined score of 110-10.

It's just that the Eldersburg team won't truly find out where it stands in the local pecking order until the final week of the regular season.

Due to a quirk in the schedule, Liberty will have to wait for its final three games to face perhaps its three strongest opponents -- Winters Mill, Century and Westminster.

"You're not sure what you really need to work on in practice because you haven't been really exposed yet," first-year Liberty coach Jerry Gladfelter said. "We're just trying to work on everything to get to a point where we think we've got it covered. But you never know for sure until you play somebody who can really test you."

The team's toughest test to date came during the opening weekend of the season, when it edged Catonsville, 7-6, in a season-opening tournament at Marriotts Ridge. The Lions were scheduled to face Urbana, one of the tougher teams from lightly regarded Frederick County, Friday night.

Gladfelter said that the lopsided wins has helped him get more playing time for his younger players -- a situation that should help come playoff time.

That experience eventually could prove critical for the Lions, who are playing without two of their three first-team All-County picks from a year ago.

One of them, goalie Kristy Hankinson, is a freshman at Towson University. Another, midfielder Steph Deisher, will miss this season after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in February.

The lone returner of the group is midfielder Amy Gladfelter, who along with junior Morgan Leonard, a second-team All-County pick at attack last year, forms the nucleus of a potent midfield. The team also is getting key contributions from a more unlikely source in freshman Maggie McCormick, who entered this weekend's play as Liberty's second-leading scorer.

In addition, a pair of newcomers to the varsity, freshman Schylar Healey and junior Jill Pontier, have teamed to more than adequately replace Hankinson in goal.

Now, all the Lions need is a good test.

"Except for that Catonsville game, we really haven't had a game yet where the second half meant anything," Gladfelter said. "[The schedule makers] didn't do me any favors."

Mullen signs

South Carroll wrestler Tyler Mullen, who this past season shattered Carroll County's record for career wins on his way to the Class 2A-1A state title at 171 pounds, has signed a letter of intent to continue his wrestling career at Davidson College, Cavaliers coach Dennis Frazier said.

Mullen, who finished 38-3 last winter and was named The Sun's Carroll County Wrestler of the Year, picked the Wildcats over Princeton.

"He just liked the atmosphere at Davidson better," said Frazier, who expects Mullen to see mat time as a freshman. The Wildcats finished 3-12 and took sixth place at the Southern Conference championships last season.

They also will graduate their starter at 174 pounds.

Mullen closed his prep career with 142 wins and four county championships. He also ranks No. 1 in his class at South Carroll, with a 4.75 weighted grade point average.

It's never over ...

Westminster baseball coach Bryan Harman may not have completely given up on Wednesday's game against county rival North Carroll. But he wasn't very far away.

Trailing 10-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Harman turned to a series of seldom-used pitchers to close out the string and pick up some varsity experience.  

"I was trying to save some arms for Winters Mill on Friday," he said.

What happened next stunned even Harman, as the Owls rallied for eight runs in the inning, tying the game on Phil Ruzbarsky's two-out, two-run homer to right. They then won it in the ninth, when Ruzbarsky singled home Scott Cremens for an 11-10 victory. 

"It was almost surreal," Harman said. "I've never been involved in a comeback of that extent, on either end."

It marked the Owls' fourth straight extra-inning game (they won two), and came on the heels of a heart-breaking loss to Tuscarora on Monday, in which they blew a 5-2 lead in the seventh.

This one might have been equally deflating if not for the late heroics. Harman said he knew he might have been in the midst of something special when his team pulled to within three.

"When I looked up and saw that I had Scotty Cremens coming to bat from the leadoff spot, I started counting," he said. "I thought, 'If Scotty gets on and Lance [Middlekamp] can get on, then Phil's the tying run.' "

Cremens then stroked a two-out single up the middle, and Middlekamp followed with an RBI double to left, cutting the lead to 10-8 and bringing the tying run to the plate.

"All I could ask for is to have a shot to tie the game," Harman. "Then Phil just absolutely unloaded on one."

Patriots rolling

The Carroll Christian girls soccer team has been a dominant force so far in the Maryland Association of Christian Schools, riding a strong mix of veteran experience and young talent to an 8-0 record heading into this weekend.

The experience has come from a group of standout seniors in forwards Katie Blizzard and Sarah Hahn, halfback Stephanie Zinnamosca and defender Brittney Becker.

Add to that contributions by freshmen halfbacks Lauren Douglass and Kasey Memphis, and the Patriots have been nearly unstoppable this season, as evidenced by Tuesday's 12-2 win over Grace Bible.

"Overall, we're probably deeper than we've ever been before," coach Dan McLaughlin said. "These are basically the same players I've had for the past couple years. They're just more experienced."

McLaughlin said his team has improved its passing since last year, when it finished 12-3. The Patriots have done the bulk of their damage by taking the ball to the corner, then sending crossing passes through the middle.

Earlier this season, they scored a 3-1 road win over Harford Christian, the team expected to be their top competition in the MACS playoffs, which open the second week of May. They were scheduled to face Mount Airy Christian last night.

To submit news and story ideas about Carroll County high school athletics, contact Rich Scherr at CarrollSports@comcast.net.

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