Field Hockey: Lions capture first county crown since 1982

Carroll County Times

Brenda Strohmer and Terry Duryea both said they expected an intense matchup.

In a game with county and playoff seeding implications on the line, rivals Liberty and Century clashed for just about every second of the 60-minute showdown Thursday afternoon.

To no surprise to either of the county coaches, the game came down to one moment with less than 5 minutes remaining.

Liberty won possession with a setup just outside of the 25-yard line. A pass from Meghan Huey skipped by Century defenders and onto the stick of teammate Kayleigh Ward.

The sophomore saw her opportunity in front of the cage, and made it count.

Ward’s goal was the difference in the Lions’ 1-0 victory, one of the biggest in Liberty’s program history — Liberty captured its first county championship since 1982.

Ward said it was a fitting accomplishment for what she had been working toward the entire season.

“It went over the girl’s stick and my stick was there,” said Ward, bursting with excitement. “I’ve been practicing the whole year not swinging my stick … and I just let it hit it. That was the best feeling in the world.”

A physical matchup drew 82 total team fouls and both sides saw their fair share of shots on cage. Liberty finished with 12 penalty corners, but Century managed just one.

The Lions (12-2, 6-0 in the county) thought they had scored midway through the first half, but the long shot was disallowed after a discussion between the officials.

Goalies Grace Fenner and Clare Hollinger kept their team’s in the game, making crucial kick saves.

Fenner finished with four saves for the Lions.

When intensity ramped up for one team, the other seemingly matched. Even the noise from a large crowd was drowned out by the screams and support from the opposing sidelines.

Those cheers grew even louder from the Liberty side when the final horn blew and Strohmer couldn’t but help express her excitement.

“It’s so tough to play everyone in our county,” she said. “To come out undefeated in the county and win it outright with this group of girls, I can’t even express how good I feel. They’ve worked so hard for this.”

Liberty snapped Century’s five-game winning streak, but Duryea remained extremely positive with her team’s performance despite the outcome.

“They really worked well together today,” Duryea said. “I felt like they passed well at the opportune times and fed each other the ball well. As a whole team, they really played hard.”

Hollinger totaled nine saves for the Knights.

Due to postponements, Century (7-3, 2-1) has a quick turnaround. They head on the road to Westminster on Friday for a county game against the Owls.

Liberty will celebrate this accomplishment for now, but Strohmer and her team understand what lies ahead.

The reigning Class 2A West Region champions likely face a tough postseason road, including a potential rematch against the Knights.

“I envision us to get back to where we were last year and get back to states,” Strohmer said. “But we’re going to have to get past [Century] again, so it’s not going to be an easy job.”

Goals: L-Kayleigh Ward.

Assists: L-Meghan Huey.

Saves: L-4 (Grace Fenner); C-9 (Claire Hollinger).

Halftime: Tied, 0-0.

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