Before Tuesday's showdown at Carroll County rival Liberty, Century girls soccer coach Sara Figuly rattled off a number of things her No. 5 Knights would have to do to come away with a win.
Of utmost importance: playing hard and together for 80 minutes.
Century, the two-time defending county champions and last year's Class 2A state winner, had to do just that to fend off a difficult challenge from the Lions.
After Liberty tied the game with 16 minutes left in regulation, the Knights stayed poised and persistent — answering with two goals to come away with a 4-2 win that typifies their recent success.
With 10 minutes left, junior forward Hannah Warther sent a cross in from the right side that was inadvertently headed in by a Lions defender who was being challenged by Knights forward Kylie Davis in front. Less than three minutes later, Rachel Wagner scored to make it 4-2 and secure the win. The Knights (4-1, 1-0 in Carroll) haven't lost a Carroll County game since the 2011 season.
"We definitely let them back in the game and knew we had to come back. We just tried to pick it up and play our style. We worked the ball around really well, communicated well and definitely picked it up," said Warther, who scored in the first half to give the Knights a 2-1 halftime lead.
Having lost to Century the past two regular seasons on the road and in overtime in the region playoffs last year, the Lions thought this could be the game they enjoyed a breakthrough with their first home game against the Knights since 2011.
After yielding a goal from Davis 10 minutes into the contest, the home team answered impressively when Morgan Grauel collected a through ball from Emily Garrick and neatly placed a shot from 15 yards inside the far post to tie the game at 1 midway through the first half.
But every time it looked as if the Lions might build some momentum, the Knights didn't allow it. With less than 12 minutes to play in the half, Warther worked her way into the middle and hit a heavy shot from 20 yards that quickly found the top of the goal to send the Knights into the intermission ahead 2-1.
They continued to control play with a strong possession game for the first 20 minutes of the second half until the Lions came with pressure — tying the score when Sophia Harvey finished off a chance right in front around traffic. Century would do what it needed the rest of the way to pull out the win.
Figuly has come to expect the positive responses from the Knights.
"That's one thing they've always been good at — they never give up and they work hard the entire game," she said.
"They didn't want to lose and they continued to try and push themselves and it worked to our advantage."
Despite the loss, Liberty coach Callie Jo Harrison saw plenty of positives. The Lions' goal scorers, Grauel and Harvey, and Garrick, who earned an assist, are all freshmen. Senior goalie Kayla Maggio also played well with eight saves. Harrison is looking for more consistency and knows the team can take a cue from Century.
"Century knows how to win," she said. "They've experienced the joy of winning a state championship and we haven't yet done that. They know exactly what it takes to be county and state champs. I think because they can recognize that feeling, they're able to pull through in important moments."