Tough early games face county teams in playoffs

North Carroll-Liberty faceoff again on Thursday

May 13, 1999|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

While the state's open playoff system continues to draw the ire of some area coaches for its randomly-selected seedings that sometimes saddle good teams with tough matchups in the first round, to Liberty lacrosse coach Courtney Vaughn, it's all about the bottom line.

"I know it's an old cliche, but you're going to have to see them sooner of later, anyway, so why not sooner?" said Vaughn, whose 12-2, 11th-ranked girls lacrosse Lions open the Class 3A-4A West regionals Thursday against North Carroll in a game between two of the county's two best teams.

It's just one of several tough early-round tests for Carroll teams, several of which would appear to have good chances of advancing far into the postseason.

Liberty is coming off back-to-back lopsided wins over two of Baltimore County's best teams, No. 12 Towson and No. 14 Dulaney, and may be peaking at just the right time, Vaughn said.

"We've just had two tough games in a row, and I'd rather have [North Carroll] right off the bat, rather than a weaker team, because we're ready," said Vaughn.

His team has a six-game winning streak over the Panthers and has beaten them handily twice this season already.

"This could very well be the region final," Vaughn said, "but neither Westminster nor South Carroll is going to let us off easy."

For players, the prospect of starting off with their arch-rivals is exciting.

"I like playing them, because it's such an intense game," said Liberty attacker Michelle Allen. "I feel that they're probably one of the toughest teams in our region, so I'd like to get it out of the way first."


Another top county matchup could occur in baseball. No. 7 South Carroll could face North Carroll in the second round. The teams are considered among the county's top three, along with Westminster.

If North Carroll beats Wheaton, the Cavaliers, who drew a first-round bye, would face the Panthers for the fourth time this season. In the first three, the Cavaliers outscored the Panthers, 49-6, including a 23-0 win in April in which outfielder Jason Tourangeau hit three home runs and had eight RBIs.

For Cavaliers coach George Richardson, however, that's little consolation.

"I really don't like the idea of playing North Carroll a fourth time," said Richardson. "Baseball is a funny game, where any team on any given day can win. Beating a team three times is tough, and doing it four times is even harder."

The winner of the second-round game would likely face Central Maryland Conference rival Thomas Johnson for a chance to go to the regional final.

"I think we got a good draw, but I also think our region is the toughest of the four regions," said Richardson. The region includes CMC champion Linganore and Damascus, another conference power.


In softball, No. 11 North Carroll opens with Wheaton Friday, with the winner facing South Carroll, the recipient of a first-round bye.

Francis Scott Key (13-4) opens Friday at Monocacy Valley Athletic League rival Middletown. Though the Eagles, having perhaps their best season in school history, already have beaten the Knights twice, the Frederick County team is coming off an upset win over conference champion Walkersville.

"It's a tough game. [Middletown is] playing very well right now," said Key coach Joe Linthicum, who knows his team faces a tough road.

"I think Middletown, Walkersville and Urbana are the three teams that we have to beat to get out of the region and go to the states. It just so happens that two of them [Middletown and Urbana] are in our half of the bracket."

Linthicum, whose team last year lost to Walkersville in a regional semifinal, said that while it would be nice to have an easier game before getting into the meat of the playoffs, the early challenges will "test the mettle of our kids."

While he sees some flaws with the open-draw system that's been in place since 1995, he said it also sees some benefits.

"One thing it does is to give home games to some teams that in the past wouldn't have had them," said Linthicum. "If you weigh it out, it's six in one, half-dozen the other. You still have to beat the good teams, whether you play them in the first round or the final round."

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