North Carroll flexes muscles, tops Liberty to take county title After coach's challenge, Panthers leave no doubt with three-game runaway

October 28, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

The outcome may not have been particularly surprising, but it was the way North Carroll swept past visiting Liberty that was more than either team expected. With its 15-6, 15-13, 15-7 victory, the home team clinched Carroll County and Central Maryland Conference championships.

Going in, North Carroll coach Lloyd Ford had told his team, "Lets make this a special night," and the players responded to the challenge.

Until last week, North Carroll had gone 11-1, having lost only to Liberty, 3-1, a month ago. Thomas Johnson stopped the Panthers' run with a 3-1 conquest, but last night third-year coach Ford saw his club bounce back with a strong performance.

The final match of the regular season left North Carroll 12-2 overall, 5-1 in the county and with its first Carroll title since 1995. Liberty, which had won the county title in 1996 and yielded it to Westminster last year, is 10-3, 4-2.

Last week, in its previous two matches, Liberty had whacked Linganore and Westminster without losing a game and giving up an average of about five points apiece, causing coach Dave Trumbo to say they were two of the best his club had played all year.

Where Liberty had had an easy time with Westminster on Thursday, the Owls had extended North Carroll on Tuesday, squaring the match with a 17-15 decision in the fourth game before the Panthers pulled out the win, 15-12, in the fifth game.

All of which brought a rising Liberty and a shaky North Carroll together, with a surprisingly easy result.

"This is the point in the season we have worked for," said North Carroll senior leader Kate Wall, who got good all-around performances from her teammates.

Liberty's Trumbo agreed, admitting his team had not played as well as it had last week, but adding that North Carroll had something to do with that.

"They passed us to death, and we were playing defense most of the way," he said. "Besides, their supporting cast [with Wall] played really well."

It has not been that way all along, as the Panthers, 10-6 a year ago, had four starters back, then lost two of them to injuries. More recently, veteran Tiffany Shearer missed some time and Wall missed a match, but the team has worked through it all.

"This time, both teams probably thought it could go either way, and we were prepared for five," Ford said. "I thought my team played extremely well."

In the first game, North Carroll broke away from a tie at 6 to win five points in a row behind Wall's serving.

The second game was much more closely contested, before the home team overcame a 12-11 lead to go ahead 14-12 and hang on. In the last one, the Panthers displayed their superiority, making one run on the serving of Tiffany Langner, and later building a 13-6 lead.

Over the past month North Carroll has played consistently well. Last night was another indication of how good this team can be.

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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