After losing to South Carroll High by nine goals in their previous encounter in late April, the Liberty High School boys lacrosse team was determined to close the gap between the Carroll County rivals.
Although the Lions achieved that goal, they were unable to reach a coveted state final after bowing to the Cavaliers, 12-9, on Saturday afternoon at Northeast High School in Anne Arundel County in a Class 2A/1A state semifinal.
If nothing else, Liberty made South Carroll work to reach their first state final berth since 2012.
The Cavaliers will meet Southern-AA, which ousted defending state champion Fallston, 9-4, for the state championship on Tuesday or Wednesday at Stevenson University.
On Saturday, the Lions (9-10) simply wouldn’t go away despite a banner day by senior attackman Sam Crossman, who scored six goals for the Cavaliers (14-5).
It was a career-best effort for Crossman, who now totals 52 goals and 15 assists this season.
Still, the Lions overcame a slew of injuries to put up a better showing this time around.
“South Carroll played a very good game,” Liberty coach Mike Flemming said. “We finally got healthy a couple of games ago. It was awesome to have all our guys back. Of course, you always want to win, but South Carroll did a very good job to make sure we didn’t.”
Crossman planted three shots between the pipes in the first quarter as the Cavaliers bolted to a 6-1 advantage.
And while it appeared that another blowout might be looming, the Lions bounced right back on goals by junior midfielder Noah Rohrer, senior attackman Mark Conway and junior attackman Jake Griffin to pull within 6-4 midway through the second period and only trailed, 7-4, at the half.
After an acrobatic save by senior goalie Evan Hock, South Carroll scored twice on goals by Griffin and one more by Crossman to build an 12-6 early in the final quarter.
However, a final spurt by the Lions on goals by Conway and Griffin made things interesting if not crucial down the stretch.
“We knew they had some injuries last time,” said MacKenzie, a state-finalist wrestler at 152 pounds. “But our goal before the season was to win it, and now we’re just one step away.”
2A/1A BOYS STATE LACROSSE SEMIFINAL
AT NORTHEAST HIGH SCHOOL
SOUTH CARROLL 12, LIBERTY 9
Lib 3 1 2 3 — 9
SC 6 1 4 1 — 12
GOALS: Lib-Noah Rohrer, Mark Conway 3, Jason Stead 2, Jake Griffin 3; SC-Adam McCarty, Sam Crossman 6, Kyle Worsley, Jake Klein, Jake MacKenzie 3.
ASSISTS: Lib-Kevin Maggio, Mark Conway 2, Chris Dominio; SC-Lorenzo Bandini, Scott Dillon.
SAVES: Lib-Zach Morris; SC-Evan Hock.