Alice Mercer has a couple more years to play for Century's girls lacrosse team, but she wants to win another state championship especially badly this season.
The sophomore midfielder scored four goals to lead the No. 13 Knights to victory over No. 10 Marriotts Ridge, 10-6, in Friday night's state Class 3A-2A semifinal at Annapolis to keep coach Rose Pentz's final season alive.
Pentz, who has guided the Knights to four state titles in six years, will step down after the state title game Tuesday or Wednesday against North Harford at UMBC to watch her daughter Kaitlin, the Knights' goalie, play in college.
"We've been talking about it all week," Mercer said. "We were like, 'Come on guys. It's Rose's last year and she's had such a big impact on the program we can't let her down now.'"
In the semifinal, the Knights (16-2) met a team attempting to mirror their own early success. The Knights won their first state title in their second year as a varsity program and the Mustangs (16-2) are now in their second year.
Early on, the Mustangs defense gave Century a lot of trouble and after Nicole Grote tied the game at 2 for Marriotts Ridge, the game stayed tied for more than 11 minutes until Mercer scored twice within 54 seconds.
The Mustangs fell behind late in the first half, but rallied to within 6-5 on three straight goals early in the second half, capped by a terrific individual effort from Lindsey DiAntonio with 15:40 left. That sent Rose Pentz calling for a time out.
"We needed to settle down and get refocused and know where we were on the field," Pentz said. "You start to get frazzled like that, you've got to take a timeout so everybody relaxes."
The Knights responded with goals from Megan Quigg and Mercer in the next couple of minutes, and then Jill Remenapp and Angela Flister finished off the scoring as the Knights held the Mustangs scoreless the rest of the way.
Mustangs coach Natalie Gaieski said her players responded to a halftime pep talk after trailing 6-2 at the break.
"We said, 'Go out there. Fight.You have nothing to lose,'" Gaieski said, "and they went out and pulled within one. I thought we had momentum and we were going to go ahead, but [Pentz] called a timeout and that was a good time for her to call a timeout. It stopped the momentum."
The Mustangs, who knocked 15-time state champ Mount Hebron out of the tournament for only the second time since 1990, got two goals from Grote and a goal and an assist from Zoe Stuckenberg.
North Harford 12, Stephen Decatur 9: The Seahawks jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but North Harford scored the next nine goals to take the lead for good in a Class 3A-2A state semifinal. The victory sends the Hawks (11-6) to the title game for the second time in four years.
Rhiannon Coogle scored two of her four goals and Hailey Ford added two in the run as the Seahawks (14-4) were held scoreless for more than 18 minutes. In the second half, Stephen Decatur rallied to within 11-9 on Sarah Wootten's goal with 13:21 to go, but Coogle scored seven minutes later and the Hawks moved the ball well to maintain possession most of the rest of the game.
"Our team all year has been one to come back," said North Harford senior Amy Poteet. "When we're down by four, we just know to bust our butts up and down the field to get it back. All year we've had close games and it's really gotten us fired up for the next one. Knowing we were so close to states, it was easy to pull through this time."