ELDERSBURG — When the North Carroll High girls soccer team advanced to the state Class 1A/2A tournament, it showed just how far girls soccer has come in Carroll County.
But when the Panthers dropped a 6-0 verdict to Hammond of Howard County in the state semifinal game at Liberty High Friday night, it proved just how far the county has to go to compete with the best teams in the state.
North Carroll kept the game close in the first half, but Hammond dominated after intermission.
"I think we played well in the firsthalf," said Panthers co-coach Phil Myers. "We made two mistakes in the first half, and they capitalized on them.
"Our aggressive play made up for some of their ball-handling skills in the first half."
Dave Guetler, the Bears' head coach, agreed.
"I don't think we used our skill in the first half as well as we should have," Guetler said. "In the second half, we wanted to dribble the ball more at midfield. Inside the 30 (yard line), our skills really showed."
Hammond got three goals from Kacy Williams, two from Kisha Jett and one from Samantha Andersch.
Hammond also had an 18-5 advantage in shots andhad three corner kicks to none for the Panthers.
The appearance by North Carroll was a first for a Carroll team in the three-year history of the state tournament. Hammond, meanwhile, won a state 1A/2A title two years ago, despite a 5-5-1 regular-season record.
Three ofthe eight teams in this year's state tournaments are from Howard County, including Centennial, which handed the Bears their only loss of the year, 3-1.
North Carroll ended the season with a 9-4-2 record after starting the season at 2-2-2.
Hammond used its superior ball-handling skills to build a 2-0 lead in the first half. And it could have been worse if not for a hustling, tenacious North Carroll team.
The two teams played fairly evenly in the early going, as the Panthers' smart play overcame Hammond's ball-handling and speed.
The Bears drew first blood when Williams took a pass from Andersch and drew North Carroll goalie Jenni Heindel out of the box and drilled the ball to her left side just six minutes into the game.
North Carrollhad its best chance to score with a little less than 11 minutes to play in the first half when Hammond goalie Amy Nestor dropped the ballafter making a save at the right post. Ashlee Douglas, the Panthers'leading scorer, was waiting, but was unable to get it past Nestor.
About six minutes later, Andersch split a pair of North Carroll defenders and easily rocketed a shot into the upper-right corner to givethe Bears a 2-0 lead.
While parts of the first half were relatively even, the second half belonged to Hammond. The Bears scored four more goals and outshot the Panthers, 9-2.
The back-breaker for the Panthers came early in the second half when Heindel dropped the ball after making a save, and Williams tapped the ball in to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.