Coach Janet Staab knew something had changed in her Harford Community College women's lacrosse team.
The Owls (4-5) struggled early inthe season, primarily because they returned only two players, Mary Ellon Daniel and Danielle Taddy. But Tuesday afternoon, the Owls routed Loyola College's club team, 21-8, for a second straight victory.
Staab had seen the change coming a week earlier -- late in a 10-7loss to Anne Arundel Community College.
That loss dropped the Owls' record to 2-5, but a splendid second half sparked a turnaround in their season. The Owls trailed, 6-1, at halftime, but bounced back tooutscore Arundel, 6-4, in the second half.
"If we had had anotherfive minutes, I think we would have beaten them," said Staab. "In that game, they finally realized they could play good lacrosse. We've told them they were good. But that's when they finally realized it forthemselves."
The newfound confidence helped the Owls win their next two games. On April 10 in Emmitsburg, they beat Mount St. Mary's, 12-4, with Daniel and Susan Sines combining for nine goals and four assists.
In the win over visiting Loyola, Daniel (32 goals, 8 assists this season) and Sines (28 goals, 12 assists) combined for 11 goals and three assists. Nichole Clark added four goals.
Against Loyola, the Owls gave up the first goal but reeled off the next eight in seven minutes.
Loyola pulled within 10-6 on the first goal of the second half, but Harford scored six in a row and 11 of the next 12 to preserve the victory.
Harford outshot Loyola, 39-20, in the game and 25-10 in the second half. Owls' goalie Trish Roberts had 11 saves,including seven in an outstanding second-half performance.
Staab said she understood the slow start. The Owls, who attended six different Harford high schools, simply needed time to adjust to each other and to the college game, she said.
"College lacrosse is a challenge for them. It's a step up just like going from jayvee to varsity in high school. They have to adjust to a higher level of play, and that takes a little while to get used to."
In only its second season, the Harford women's team still is experiences growing pains. Staab's team is small. With 14 players, there are only two substitutes.
This team isn't exactly what Staab envisioned at the end of last year's 4-5 season.
"I should have had at least five or six return," she said. "About five transferred to different schools. But of those I thought would come back, five or six decided to work."
Still Staab, who coached for six years at North Harford High, had a solid recruiting year, pulling in players from around the county. The team includes Daniel, Clark and Jenny Baker from Fallston; Roberts, Mary Ann Cochran, Stacie Edie and Julie Bensch from Aberdeen; Kim Adams, Tara Rhodesand Angela Knott from C. Milton Wright; Taddy and Pam Durfee from Bel Air; Sines from Edgewood; and Amber Prince from North Harford.
"I think most of them will come back," said Staab, who has only two players, Daniel and Taddy, with no eligibility left. "If the rest stay with me, we should have a really strong team next year."
Recruiting for a brand-new program is not easy. Staab and assistant coach Carrie Marzicola look for talent at the local high schools, but neither has much time to spend recruiting. They have to rely on their players to help spread the word.
"A lot of us go back to our old high schools and talk to friends we knew trying to get them to come here," said Daniel. "A lot of girls are more interested in four-year colleges, but people are really looking at Harford as a sports college now."