North Carroll coach Denean Koontz thought she had a special field hockey team this year. Yesterday, her charges proved her right.
The Panthers (11-3, 6-1) used goals by Courtney Beard and Shannan Carl to defeat host Westminster (9-2-1, 2-2-1), 2-0, and win the Central Maryland Conference field hockey title. Both goals were scored off corners.
"We had aspirations of doing this, but as the season went on, it became a definite goal," said Beard. "Everyone was on the same page tonight, and we played great."
The field hockey championship is the first for the Panthers since 1998. North Carroll will open the playoffs on Thursday against the winner of today's Liberty-Wilde Lake game.
North Carroll controlled the play almost from the beginning, and spent most of the night in front of the Westminster cage. Still, it was Beard's goal, with 3:45 left in the half, that got the Panthers started.
"We've been concentrating [in practice] on putting one in in the first half," said Koontz. "I think we gained a little confidence after the goal and we started to move the ball better."
For Beard, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
"Caitlin [O'Meara] took the shot, and it hit the goalie in the pads," Beard said. "I just tapped it off her pads, and it went in."
The Panthers extended the lead in the second half when Shannan Carl picked up an errant clear by Westminster goalie Emily Chamelin, and fired it into the open net with 19:56 left to play.
"I came across the front of the goal and the ball was there, so I knocked it in," said Carl. "Our intensity was up, and we worked very hard for that goal."
Westminster's best chance to score came with 10:04 left in the game. The Owls had a partial breakaway, but Christine Leazer's shot trickled wide to the right of the cage.
"We didn't play our game tonight," said Westminster coach Judie Puckett. "Give credit to our defense, though. To play 60 minutes in our own end and only give up two goals was tremendous."
Puckett says the loss can be a positive for the Owls going into the regional playoffs.
"I have to believe it will help us," said Puckett, whose team will play the winner of the Parkville-Perry Hall game next Tuesday. "I hope it motivates us to work even harder."