It didn’t take long for Manchester Valley’s girls lacrosse team to find its groove Thursday against Liberty.
The 11th-ranked Mavericks scored three goals in the first 15 minutes of the game and tallied nine goals in the first half on the way to a 13-6 win over No. 13 Lions in the Carroll County Athletic League opener for both in Manchester.
Manchester Valley sophomore midfielder Emma Penczek started the surge with a goal at the 20 minute, 40 second mark of the first half. She was in the middle of the action again on the second tally for the Mavs, finding fellow sophomore Haylee Bittinger in front of the cage for a score with 17:24 left in the half.
“We have a lot of trust in each other and we work together well,” Penszek said. “We have a strong bond, and we know what each person can do. We just make space for them.”
Bittinger added another score with 16:08 on the clock and forced Liberty to call a timeout. The Mavericks (3-0 overall, 1-0 CCAL) continued their onslaught, pushing the lead to a 7-0 behind two goals from junior Natalie Burmeister sandwiched around another goal from Penczek and a tally from senior Sarah Brisson.
“We have been starting the games a little bit slow the last three games, so one of the things we asked our girls to focus on coming into this game was recognizing the importance of each possession and [starting fast],” Manchester Valley head coach Shelly Brezicki said.
Liberty (3-1, 0-1 CCAL) finally found the back of the net with 5:14 left in the first half on a goal from senior Jenna Evans. A short time later, senior Riley Matthiesen added another score to make it 7-2.
The Mavericks responded with a pair of goals to close the half leading 9-2. Senior Casey Meredith scored with 1:34 left to make it 8-2. With 43 seconds left until halftime, Brisson became the fourth Manchester Valley player with two goals in the first half when she skipped a shot past Lions goalie Emily Pond for a 9-2 advantage.
“I thought we played really well together as a team,” Brezicki said. “We talked to our team about always being a threat. Our team does a really good job of recognizing of who has the best opportunity and getting the ball to them.”
In the early stages of the second half, Liberty threatened to make the game close with two more goals from Matthiesen that trimmed the deficit to 9-4 with 20 minutes tleft in regulation.
The Mavericks responded with a 4-0 run to put the game away. Bittinger had two goals during the run to finish with four in the game. Meredith and Penczek had the other tallies.
“[This win] does give you confidence going into the rest of the county,” Meredith said. “Liberty is a quality team. They are a tough team to go against and always are. If we can play like this against them, we can do it against every other team in the county. It kind of gives us that confidence to keep moving forward, keep working hard and keep improving.”
Liberty coach Tom Brandel said his team got rattled early and that is something his team will need to work on moving forward in an ultra-competitive county.
“I think nerves got to us a little bit,” Brandel said. “Man Valley did a great job pressuring us. We just had too many turnovers early in the game. I believe that Carroll County for girls lacrosse is the best county in the country, so we know every game is going to be like this. We have to do a better job of getting our girls prepared to be successful.”
NO. 11 MANCHESTER VALLEY 13, NO. 13 LIBERTY 6
Goals: Manchester Valley - Hayley Bittinger 4, Emma Penczek 3, Natalie Burmeister 2, Sarah Brisson 2, Casey Meredith 2. Liberty - Riley Matthiesen 3, Jenna Evans, Emily Spampinato, Annika Wray.
Assists: Manchester Valley - Emma Penczek 2, Sarah Brisson 2, Casey Meredith 2
Saves: Manchester Valley – Zoe Cassell 2. Liberty – Emily Pond 1, Halley Feaga 3.
Liberty 2 4 - 6
Manchester Valley 9 4 - 13