Century coach Becky Groves wasn't sure how her seventh-ranked girls lacrosse team would respond after losing its first game at Saturday's Comet Invitational Tournament to unranked host Catonsville.
In the Knights' second game — a clash of defending state champions with No. 2 Bel Air — they surprised even their coach, bouncing back with uncommon resilience for a young team dealing with several injuries.
Bel Air, the defending Class 4A-3A champion, built a three-goal lead. But the Knights, the Class 2A-1A champs, rallied for an 8-7 victory with patience on attack, strong work on the draw and a defense that held off the Bobcats through a late-game extra-man opportunity.
The Knights (4-1) had already lost starting defender Rachel Rubenstein to a torn ACL this week, and against Catonsville, midfielder Grace Bruce, one of their top scorers, sprained an ankle and could not play against Bel Air. Bruce scored six goals in the 15-14 loss to the Comets.
"To be honest, I had no idea what team was going to walk on the field," Groves said. "We could have just said, 'Grace isn't playing and whatever,' but I told my girls, 'It doesn't matter if she's not playing. If you get the ball more, step up because this is your opportunity.' "
Another top scorer, Christina Haspert, led the way with three goals and two assists while Demma Hall scored three goals.
"I think [losing] the first game really, really pumped us up because we did not want to lose that at all," Hall said. "I really think that brought us all together a lot more as a team and made us want to go out and dominate."
Maddie Bates handled the draw, which had been a problem in the loss to Catonsville. Although the Bobcats won nine of 17 draws, the Knights improved their percentage. After taking an 8-5 lead on Haspert's transition goal with 12:21 left, they won the final three draws to help hold off Bel Air's rally.
With 5:36 left, Haspert picked up a yellow card, but the defense, led by Kaitlyn Huber, Maggie Bornyek, Kelsey Morrison and Summer Morrison, held off the Bobcats just enough for the win.
Goalie Claire Hollinger had one of her five saves and the Knights were fortunate after turning the ball over behind the goal in Bel Air's attacking end with 1:43 left. Bobcats All-Metro midfielder Elizabeth Hillman fired a rocket riser that carried just over the crossbar.
The Bobcats (4-1) struggled to be consistent against the Knights. They outshot Century, 18-14, but turned the ball over nine times in the first half.
While Century had time to rest between games, Bel Air defeated Garrison Forest, 16-10, just 20 minutes before playing the Knights. Coach Kristen Barry said that was no excuse.
"Even though we're playing back-to-back games, we need to play smarter," Barry said. "We made a lot of mental errors in that game. You win as a team, you lose as a team, so it wasn't on one player. We just, as a team, lost our focus and our composure and that's really what it came down to."
The Bobcats tied the game at 5 right after the half on Gabby Trzeciak's goal, but the Knights scored three times in a little over five minutes on free-position goals from Madison Plitt and Haspert as well as the game-winning transition goal from Haspert.
During the last 12:21, Bel Air shut out the Knights. Caroline Fallace and Keeley McHugh scored in the final minutes to pull Bel Air within one with about 2:30 left.
No. 7 Century 8, No. 2 Bel Air 7
Goals: BA—Wehland, Asher, Hillman, Henry, Trzeciak, Fallace, McHugh; C—Hall 4, Haspert 3, Plitt. Assists: BA—M. Hall; Henry; C—Haspert 2; K.Morrison. Saves: BA—Patrick 6; C—Hollinger 5. Half: C, 5-4.