The Liberty Lions had a pretty good idea they would have a tougher time in their third go-around with county rival North Carroll last night in Eldersburg.
After scoring a combined 11 goals in their two regular-season wins, the No. 10 Lions went up against a defensive-minded Panthers team that knew it would need to keep the score low to have any chance of advancing in the Class 1A-2A West region playoffs.
A strong defensive effort from North Carroll (5-9) still wasn't enough as the Lions' offense proved to be too much in coming away with a 3-0 win.
Sophomore Shanna Ziegenfuss scored two goals to lead the Lions, who will travel to Middletown either Friday or Saturday in the region semifinals.
"[North Carroll] played a smart game defensively," said Liberty coach Chuck Martin. They looked to double- and sometimes triple-team Shanna and their keeper [Teresa Mays] did a great job, but Shanna was even greater."
Liberty took a 1-0 lead when Ziegenfuss converted on a penalty kick three minutes into the game after being dragged down in the penalty area.
The Lions continued to dominate throughout the rest of the half despite having the wind against them. Ziegenfuss and Natalie Hannibal both had a number of scoring chances, but couldn't get anything past Mays.
At halftime, the Lions had an 11-0 edge in shots with the Panthers having had a tough time getting out of their own end.
North Carroll's best chance came 10 minutes into the second half when Lisa McCulley sent a through ball intended for Aubrey Wilfong, but Liberty goalie Angi Primavera came out to smother the attack just inside the 18-yard mark. That's what North Carroll coach Phil Myers was looking for.
"We knew we would have to keep the score down," he said.
"We set up for a defensive game hoping to get some fast-break chances, but nothing materialized. We just didn't get the ball into position to get good shots off. They have an outstanding team and I think we made them work for this one."
Liberty finally got the insurance goal it was looking for 15 minutes into the second half when Ziegenfuss scored her second of the night.
She collected a ball deep in the right corner, circled around one defender and beat another before finding the lower right corner.
* Liberty 12, Allegany 2: Geoff Gursky scored three goals and added an assist as Liberty (6-8) defeated Allegany (3-9-1) in a 2A West Region game.