Madi Hall said she's part of Century's backup plan, just in case the Knights have to tangle with quality opponents and scoring is at a premium.
So there she was late in the second half Monday, doing whatever she could to keep the ball from trickling into her team's cage while Manchester Valley tried furiously to mount a comeback.
The senior's stick save on a loose ball with about 15 minutes to play was just one of a few defensive stops the Knights made during their 2-1 win, a victory that knocked the Mavericks from their share of first place in the Carroll County field hockey standings.
"I think we're coming together really well," Hall said about No. 6 Century's defense, which graduated some all-county talent from the Class 2A state champion squad last year. "We had a tough beginning, but we're all practicing [defense] at practice, and they're really getting their spots down. We changed it up to where I play center-mid now, so they needed to learn all by themselves. And I think that they definitely did."
Hall provides assistance from her midfield position, along with fellow seniors Marissa Donoghue and Shelby Mercer.
Century's defense, led by senior Cece Adams and junior Kassie Kavoukas, has five shutouts this fall. The sixth was denied when Manchester Valley's Rosalia Cappadora used her backhand to loft the ball into the cage as the Mavericks cut the deficit to 2-1 with 3:10 left in Monday's game.
Century held on and improved to 8-1-1 (4-0 county) while Manchester Valley fell to 7-2 (3-1).
Knights coach Terry Duryea said she's happy with her team's progress. Century's season began with a loss to private-school power Archbishop Spalding and a tie with Kent County on the same day at a tournament, but the Knights know have an eight-game winning streak.
Defense has been a big part of the success, Hall said.
"A lot of midfielders stay on the offensive side," she said, "and since we think more defensively, there's more people back to save the ball when we need it."
Hall proved her own point by stopping a close-range shot from Cappadora midway through the second half that would have tied the game at 1-1.
Century's insurance goal came from Lauren Martin, who knocked in a rebound with 4:41 to play. Manchester Valley assistant coach Kati Hockstad, who is filling in for coach Jennifer Etzel (maternity leave), called a timeout following Martin's goal and said the talk was straightforward.
"To not back down is huge," Hockstad said. "They gave everything they had. And I think they held their own."
Mandi Trostle gave Century a 1-0 lead 38 seconds into the game when the Knights capitalized on a defensive breakdown and used their speed to set up deep in Manchester Valley territory.
The rest of the half went Century's way, but the Mavericks played even with their county foes after that — another reason why the Knights' defense needed to make its team's lead stand up.
"Defense is working hard," Duryea said. "We have some saves back there on that goal ... my whole midfield is seniors, and they know they have to get back. It's all about support and playing as a team."
Goals: C-Mandi Trostle, Lauren Martin; MV-Rosalia Cappadora.
Assists: C-Sarah Jacobs.
Saves: C-5 (Caitie Pluta); MV-10 (Jacie Wood).
Halftime: Century, 1-0.
JV result: Century, 2-1.