North Carroll: regional champion.
Coach Jim MacDonald and his players are getting used to how that sounds after the Panthers captured the Class 3A West title last night, shocking Thomas Johnson, current Central Maryland Conference champion and winner of last year's state championship in Class 3A-4A.
North Carroll (10-5-2), with two goals from Stephanie Rogers and one from Danielle Shearer, stunned the Patriots, 3-2, on a rainy, windy night in Hampstead.
Thomas Johnson (14-4) had won the regular season meeting, 3-0, and had not been scored on in beating Richard Montgomery and Liberty in regional play. The Panthers had advanced with 1-0 victories over South Carroll and Walter Johnson.
They will play the winner of tonight's Dundalk-Bel Air game when the state semifinals are held Saturday night at Sherwood.
"The outcome was a surprise from what we expected score-wise, because we were looking for a low-scoring game," MacDonald said. "I told the team it would have to play good defense, so it turned into an up-and-down-the-field game.
"We knew they had not given up many goals, so for us to get three is fantastic."
Rogers, who took over the Carroll County scoring lead with 13, was the focal point. She started in the midfield, moved up on top after TJ went ahead in the sixth minute, 1-0, then dropped back to more of a defensive position after the half, with NC ahead, 2-1.
After Molly Merkel had tied it for the visitors with her second goal nine minutes into the action, she went back up front, with sensational results.
North Carroll had the wind at its back in the second half, a decided advantage, especially in the last 20 minutes when the Patriots had trouble clearing the ball out of their end.
Midway through, North Carroll had a throw-in in Thomas Johnson territory, and defender Lauren Griffee was able to head the ball over her goal.
The home side kept up the pressure and within a minute Shearer got around a defender for a shot and when keeper Melissa Deveney slipped and fell, Rogers was there to kick it in over her.
"We have had a lot of experience scoring late, so we packed it in on defense," MacDonald said.
The fact the leaders had the wind also played into their long-ball game, coupled with the speed of freshman forward Katie Riley and sophomore defender Jen Lee, who had solid performances.
Perhaps the most noticeable effort by the supporting cast came from junior Jill Pyzik, a two-year starter in the midfield.
As MacDonald expressed it, "Part of a midfielder's responsibility is to step to the ball, and she gets to every ball it is humanly possible to do. She's a natural athlete -- this is a team of athleticism -- and a critical factor in the midfield."
Of her recent efforts, Pyzik said, "I got more aggressive. Coming in, we knew we had to step We've been playing so well, we had to keep it going."
Pub Date: 11/11/98