Field hockey is not usually a game of inches, but Linganore needed only about two inches to eliminate No. 8 Bel Air from the state playoffs yesterday.
Early in the second half, Linganore wing Amethyst Tymoch shot a ball that cleared the goal line by about two inches. That was all the third-seeded Lancers would need for a 1-0 victory in a state Class 3A semifinal at Goucher College.
"The ball barely went over the line," said Bel Air link Carrie Carpenter. "Our halfback, Renee Polek, stopped it, but it was just over the line. It all seemed to happen so fast,which is funny because the ball was so slow coming over [from the wing]."
In fact, the play seemed to happen in slow motion.
The ball came from Trisha Galayda, the Lancers' left wing, and rolled past several defensive sticks in front of the cage. Carpenter turned as she saw the ball behind her, but she couldn't reach it before Tymoch shot. The ball caromed off Bel Air keeper Jessica McGreen, but Tymoch punched it in off the rebound.
Bobcats coach Phyllis Hemmes said too many defenders looked up too soon.
"Jessica picked her head up when she went to kick the ball and Renee picked her head up when she went to stop the ball," said Hemmes. "But it's a game and it's the bounce of a hockey ball. Sometimes you can stop the hardest shots and the slow ones are the ones that get you."
For second-seeded Bel Air (11-2-2), the loss overshadowed an otherwise well-played game.
Defensively, the Bobcats withstood eight Linganore corners, including six in the first half despite suffering a blow even before the first whistle.
In warm-ups, starting halfback Teresa Clark took a whack on the hand and ended up with a dislocated ring finger. She spent the entire game on the bench.
Clark's absence really did not hurt the Bobcats physically since Kellie Sedgely played a fine game in her place. Mentally, however, it was a different story.
"Teresa means a lot to the team. She means a lot to me. We just miss her when she's not there," said link Jamie Kunkel.
"The kids have their minds set on who's on the field at the time, so it is on their minds that she's not there," said Hemmes.
But losing Clark certainly did not cost the Bobcats the game. They had a couple of chances to strike just as quickly as the Lancers (10-3-1) had.
The Bobcats tested Linganore's defense early, keeping the ball in their half for about the first 10 minutes. Link Amy Rafalski pushed several good passes into the circle, but the Lancers cleared them before the Bobcats could take a shot.
In the final two minutes of the game, the Bobcats threatened with three straight penalty corners -- their only ones of the game. Kunkel managed a weak shot off the third one, but Linganore cleared it out to preserve the victory.
"Most of the game was played between the 25s," said Carpenter. "We didn't get into the circle as much as we usually do. We played more defense and we really didn't play out to the wings much."
For the Bobcats, the trip to the state semifinals wrapped up a season that wasn't expected to go that far.
"Ms. Hemmes told us at the beginning of the season that she would be happy if we were 8-4 and we were 11-2-2," said Kunkel.
"We outdid her expectations and we outdid ourselves. We really had a good season. I'm happy with it, and I think everyone else is happy with that too."