Gina Cinquegrani had a big year last fall as Liberty's top goalkeeper. She started each game and posted six shutouts as the Lions went 15-0-3 and shared the Class 2A-3A state title with South River.
But Cinquegrani suffered from a lack of confidence at the start of this season. She had struggled through a bad experience with a club team last spring and wondered how well she could play.
Liberty coach Sam DeLaurence and assistant Bill Reigel worked a lot with her, trying to build her confidence. Their efforts paid off handsomely as Cinquegrani had nine shutouts, and Liberty won the county title and finished the regular season at 12-1-1.
At 3 p.m. tomorrow, the Lions open postseason play at Dulaney in a Class 3A-4A first-round game.
Cinquegrani allowed only seven goals in the team's 14-game regular season. With the junior in goal, the Lions have a two-year record of 27-1-4, and her aggressive play has saved many scores and often sparked the team.
"She makes the saves that need to be made," said DeLaurence. "I told her that we need her to make two or three big-time plays per game. She has accepted that."
And she has done it.
Liberty is a much different team this season. The Lions lost Player of the Year Shanna Ziegenfuss and Haley DeLaurence, two big-time offensive threats, from last season.
Sam DeLaurence said the Lions knew last year they could make a mistake and one of their two offensive stars would make up for it.
But last fall's three- and four-goal performances are gone. Most of the team's wins this season are of the 1-0 and 2-1 variety. This year, the defense can never rest -- the reason Cinquegrani needed to be at the top of her game.
"That was their challenge to me," said Cinquegrani. "I accepted their challenge."
She showed that early in the season. When Liberty scored a 2-1 victory over then-No. 1-ranked St. Mary's, the Saints were inside the Lions' 30-yard area for 15 minutes at one point -- but did not score.
A few games later, Liberty scored a 1-0 double-overtime victory over Severna Park. The Falcons came up with chance after chance, but Cinquegrani made numerous dazzling saves, often rushing far out to make sliding stops or force Severna Park players to adjust their shots.
"Her game has gone up a notch," said DeLaurence. "Last year, she had flashes. She could be as good as any goalkeeper in one five-minute stint and as weak as a young goalkeeper the next five minutes. This year, she's been solid."
Reigel, a former keeper at Liberty and Washington College, has spent lots of time working with Cinquegrani. He has stressed that the junior needs to make every save that she should, and then maybe a few great ones will come after that.
He said he has seen Cinquegrani's confidence grow.
"You have to believe that you can stop every shot," Reigel said, "but understand that you won't. She's really accepted that role on our team."
Cinquegrani and the coaches credit the defense for also playing a big role in Liberty shutouts. Erica Gordon, Jen Berarducci, Colleen Cox and Kelly Knutson all play tight defense and rarely allow good passes or shots. Cinquegrani finishes the job.
Cinquegrani said the advanced aggressiveness she's shown helps because it probably makes opposing shooters think a bit.
"If you're not aggressive and you're a laid-back player, the other team's going to notice it and capitalize on it," said Cinquegrani. "If I was a striker, and I had a goalie coming out and taking the ball off my feet, I'd want to get rid of it earlier or pass it off to another teammate."
But for now, Cinquegrani is working on keeping her confidence high -- and the wins coming. She and coach DeLaurence have a simple routine before each game to help with that.
DeLaurence walks over to her before Liberty takes the field and delivers a simple message: "Don't let the ball in the net."
So far, she has followed orders.
Pub Date: 10/23/97