John Grubb took his North Harford lacrosse team to Bel Air knowing his squad would have to work hard for a victory against the winless Bobcats.
Even though the Hawks had a winning record and returned five starters from their state title-wining squad, Grubb couldn't forgethistory. "Bel Air beat this team we have twice when they were on JV," explained the 14-year veteran.
But Bel Air coach Bruce Riley remembered last year, too -- when the Hawks' varsity beat the Bobcats, 20-5. Although the Hawks lost almost all of their attack, they returned just about everything else.
Riley wasn't surprised at Wednesday's result -- an 8-4 Hawks victory.
"They've built their team around their defense, and their defense plays real well together," said Riley. "They've adjusted well from an overpowering scoring team to a defense-oriented team."
The Hawks (4-2) have needed strong defense in the early going to give their young attack a chance to catch up with the varsity game.
Goalie TomMurrell and defenders Chris Gress, Jason Ketner and Chris Beall haveresponded. Against Bel Air, Murrell had 10 saves in the game and thedefense gave up just one first-half goal.
The Hawks continued to improve on attack, getting five goals from their three starters. Chuck Kelly scored three while Bruce Axelsson and converted middie JustinSmith added single goals. Smith also had a pair of assists, while Kelly and Axelsson had one each.
"The last couple of games, we've gotten half our goals from the attack, but we're still working hard with them," said Grubb. "Our
man-up unit got two early goals, which gave us a little momentum (Wednesday)."
The Hawks also got momentumby controlling face-offs. They won eight of 13, most by veteran Tim Lucky, who put the offense in business right away.
Lucky and the Hawks' other veteran middie, Brett Schreiber, are practically an unbeatable pair in setting up the break off the faceoff. Each scored a goal against Bel Air, while Schreiber, who also saw action on attack, added an assist.
Bel Air, however, did better against the faceoff this year than last, said Riley, who gave much of the credit to the defense of senior Tom Jones. Although he plays mostly on the defensive end, Jones came between Lucky and Schreiber a couple of times to upsetthe Hawks' fast-break plans.
The Bobcats, 0-4 going into Friday night's game at Severna Park, bounced back from a lot of early confusion on defense. While the 8-1 first half was almost all North Harford,the Bobcats didn't give up a goal in the second half.
"We never settled into the defense (in the first half)," said Riley. "Some guys were running man-to-man, and some were running zone. We put in a zoneover spring break, because we were having trouble staying with people man-to-man. Not everybody was here over spring break, so it was kind of a trial by fire today."
Like the Hawks, the Bobcats are looking for a little more offensive punch. Jeff Forbes scored three unassisted goals in the second half, while Tim Walter had the lone first-half tally.
Riley said he needs a more balanced attack to open up Greg Martin, the Bobcats' top scorer last year. Martin has faced one double-team after another, and the Hawks' top defender, Gress, held himscoreless Wednesday.
The road doesn't get any easier for the Bobcats, who face Fallston and C. Milton Wright next week.
"We're getting a little anxious (for a win)," said Riley. "We're playing good teams, but they're teams we think we can beat. We're just not playing afull game."
The Hawks faced Wilde Lake Friday night and are scheduled to play Havre de Grace and Edgewood next week.