Manchester Valley tightened its grip on the top spot in Carroll County girls lacrosse Tuesday night with a 14-7 victory over defending county champion Century.
The No. 8 Mavericks opened the game with seven straight goals and did not give up a score until the final six minutes of the first half. No 11 Century rallied to within three late in the second half, but the host Mavericks scored four times after the Knights picked up a fourth yellow card that forced them to play man down for the last six minutes.
With wins over Century and No. 9 Liberty, 13-6 on March 30, the Mavericks (6-0, 3-0 county) have defeated the two teams who were most likely to challenge them in the county.
“They have a lot of players that are very good, so they’re anywhere you turn,” Century coach Becky Groves said. “We tried to take Emma Penczek away. It didn’t matter. They have Casey Meredith. They have a bunch of underclassmen who are stepping up. Their offense is multi-dimensional. They can challenge. They can feed. They use every single person. There’s not anybody that they’re trying to hide. And their team as a whole is very good.”
Groves said no team the Knights previously faced showed the kind of speed and athleticism Manchester Valley has, so things that worked against other teams weren’t working against the Mavericks.
Seven Mavericks scored, led by Penczek, a stellar sophomore midfielder, with five goals. Haylee Bittinger scored three and Sarah Brisson added two.
“We really knew they were a good team,” said Penczek, who also won five draws. “We just had to come out strong with the right momentum, enough energy. We really pushed through and worked together as a team to get us started and get it going our way.”
The Knights (5-2, 1-1) cut the lead to four on goals from Harli Hamlett and Hannah Baglin to open the second half, but the Mavericks got two goals from Penczek — with a free-position goal from Century’s Jane Brewer in between — to lead 10-5 with 12 minutes left.
Delaney Sandbank and Marley Carfine then scored back-to-back free-position goals for the Knights, cutting the lead to 10-7 with 6 minutes, 34 seconds to go.
“I think we just didn’t hold our body position,” Mavericks coach Shelly Brezicki said. “I thought we were going for too many checks and Century’s a talented team, so they’re going to capitalize on those. I think we put them on the line way too much in the second half.”
Manchester Valley all but sealed the victory by winning four of the final five draws and maintaining possession. They forced a turnover after Century’s draw control.
Playing man down really hurt the Knights. They tried to double team quickly to get the ball back, but that left two players open and the Mavericks took advantage. They moved the ball quickly and found openings to the goal.
Despite those few glitches in the second half, Mavericks defenders Luetta Seipp, Aubrey Chopper, Sophie Baer and Maya Trump played a terrific game. Goalie Zoe Cassell had two saves.
From the start, Brezicki said ,the Mavericks wanted to be sure not to waste any opportunities that came their way.
“We talked about coming in and using any momentum we had and just taking advantage of those moments, because we don’t know when they’re going to come in a game. I thought in the first half we just had some great momentum breaks and our kids capitalized and put it away.”
Last season, Century not only won the county championship, but they went on to win the Class 2A state championship. The Mavericks are in the same region as the Knights, so they used the motivation from watching them win all the accolades to help them get the upper hand this time.
Still, the Mavericks aren’t counting on anything despite their unbeaten record. They won’t be caught off guard.
“We can’t go into anything looking past any team,” Penczek said. “They’re going to come out hard. We just have to come out fighting too. We’re not going to look too far ahead. We’re going to live in the moment, focus on the present.”
NO. 8 MANCHESTER VALLEY 14, NO. 11 CENTURY 7
Century 2 5 — 7
Man Valley 8 6 — 14
GOALS: C—Jane Brewer 2, Marley Carfine 2, Harli Hamlett, Delaney Sandbank, Hannah Baglin; MV—Emma Penczek 5, Haylee Bittinger 3, Sarah Brisson 2, Addison Meyer, Natalie Burmeister, Casey Meredith, Erin Herrold.
ASSISTS: C—Delaney Sandbank 2, Marley Carfine; MV—Natalie Burmeister 3, Haylee Bittinger, Sarah Brisson.
SAVES: C—Bella Mullinix 7; MV—Zoe Cassell 2.