After starting 1-4, young North Carroll plays for state title Mid-season spat marked turn-around for Panthers

Class 3A girls soccer @

November 20, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

At the beginning of the season, Stephanie Rogers, the senior leader of North Carroll's entry in the state Class 3A girls soccer championship, was hoping the team could be .500.

When the Panthers lost their first three games and split the next two, perhaps a break-even season seemed a lofty challenge. It turned out to be a challenge not only met but surpassed, as the team takes an 11-5-2 record into tomorrow's game.

North Carroll will play Leonardtown (16-2-0) at North County High School in Ferndale. The 2: 30 p.m. contest will be the second of the four class finals on the program.

The others are: Class 1A -- Hammond vs. Williamsport, noon; Class 2A -- Centennial vs. Middletown, 5 p.m.; and Class 4A -- Severna Park vs. Wootton, 7: 30 p.m.

North Carroll's players can easily pinpoint the moment their season turned around. Several days after the team lost to Bel Air to drop to 1-4, two good friends had a heated difference of opinion in the middle of a practice session.

The spat cleared the air and might have been the cure for what ailed the squad. The girls are still good friends, but the memory of that afternoon has kept the team focused on its ultimate goal.

"It made us realize we had such great talent," Rogers said earlier this week, "and everybody began working well together. It has turned out to be a dream season."

Jen Lee, a sophomore starter, and one of 10 freshmen or sophomores on the 17-player squad, said she didn't think she would do as well as she has. "As one of the new people, I was a good girl and kept my mouth shut," she said.

She admits that is not her nature, however, and once everybody was playing as a team, she loosened up, and things became a lot easier.

Such has been the dedication, and more recently, superstitions to go with more victories that coach Jim MacDonald leaves his players alone for their pre-game rituals.

"I think this team is very strong-willed with each other, and we're especially strong-willed with other teams," Lee said.

This is noticeable in the team's physical approach to its games, but as Rogers pointed out, "Everybody talks about us being physical, but that's what you need for a strong team."

Danielle Shearer, one of four seniors on the team, likely expressed a major reason for the team's solidarity.

"Some of us are focused on other sports, and this bothered me at the beginning of the season. I felt badly for Stephanie, because this is her sport."

It is a measure of their respect for Rogers that once the problem was resolved, the players have united in their pursuit of one banner -- the one representing a state championship.

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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