HAMPSTEAD — South Carroll had a relatively easy time Thursday night in cruising to the Four Seasons Sports Complex indoor lacrosse championship.
The squad, made up primarily of varsity and junior varsity lacrosse players from South Carroll High, topped Watkins Mill of Montgomery County, 9-3, in the semifinal and then pulled away to an 8-3 verdict overLiberty I in the championship.
The winners were unbeaten in the eight-game regular season.
Liberty I, third in the regular season, left its heart and soul on the field in its semifinal game win over Liberty II.
In an emotional comeback, all-senior Liberty I rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the finalminutes to edge their Liberty High schoolmates, 6-5.
The finale saw them play fairly evenly before intermission but fade rapidly in the final 20-minutes as South Carroll widened a 3-2 lead with a 5-1 burst in the last 13 minutes.
"They were getting inside, and we were tired," said Liberty goalkeeper Jon Conrey. "The fatigue was overwhelming."
His team also played without a coach this year.
This wasits undoing, said former Liberty High lacrosse mentor Mark Hughes, who coached winning South Carroll Thursday night.
He said the two teams' talent was equal and if "they'd had a coach, the game could have gone either way."
Adam Whittington put South Carroll ahead, 1-0,midway through the first half, and Geoff Weisenborn hit his first ofthree goals a minute later to make it 2-0.
Dan Reichard narrowed the score to 2-1 before Conrey, who made many excellent saves to keephis team in the game, lapsed late in the half.
He mishandled the ball while trying to pass and it fell into the goal to give South Carroll a 3-1 lead.
But Liberty came out smoking after intermission.
Jason Hopwood scored to narrow the lead to 3-2 and an aroused Liberty suddenly began outplaying South Carroll.
With his opponents taking control, Hughes called time out.
"I wanted to slow the game down and control the ball. We were getting beat physically," he said.
When his squad returned to the turf with about 13 minutes to play,the tide turned.
Weisenborn, who hadn't scored all year, hit two quick goals to make it 5-2. Then, Scott Snell took a lead pass and scored for a 6-2 lead with nine minutes remaining.
By that time, Liberty's resistance collapsed, and South Carroll forwards cruised almost unchecked near the goal.
Chris D'Anthony, though, gave Liberty fans their final chance to cheer when he pulled a rebound off the wallnear his goal and raced the length of the floor to score.
But South Carroll's Don Pyles followed with a quick score, then fed Jeremy Russin for the eighth goal with 2:40 left.
Even with the odds lengthening late in the game, Conrey still had hope.
"We'd come back inthe game before. I thought we had a chance to beat them until the last two minutes," he said.
Even after losing, Conrey felt the experience was worthwhile.
"We needed to pull together and do the best we could," he said. "It was a good experience to work together without a coach."