North Carroll, on a victory crusade for the last two months, found the ending bittersweet.
On the one hand was the fact not much had been expected of this team, so simply playing in the state championship game was a dream. On the other hand, to get so close and come away empty turned the dream into a nightmare.
It was Leonardtown (17-2) which survived the physical contest to live its dream, as it scored on an indirect kick with just under five minutes remaining to collect a 2-1 victory over North Carroll (11-6-2) in the Class 3A title game at North County in Linthicum yesterday.
The loss on a cold, breezy afternoon ended a run that had seen coach Jim MacDonald's crew go 10-1-2 after a 1-4 start.
Gwen Smith, a senior midfielder, got the game-winner from the top of the box after North Carroll had been whistled for a dangerous play.
Freshman April Lockley (17 goals, six assists), standing next to Smith, touched the ball, and Smith put it high into the far corner of the net for her 10th goal of the year.
"I just wanted to make sure I hit it," Smith said. Some two minutes earlier, she had taken a direct kick from 20 yards out and the ball sailed over the crossbar. "Overall, it was pretty physical. They're the most physical team we've played."
Coach Jennifer Henderson knew that ahead of time.
"I thought we raised our level of aggressiveness because we knew North Carroll was more aggressive than other teams we had faced. We were concerned about their long throw-ins [30 yards-plus from sophomore Amy Bromwell]," said Henderson.
"We were aware of their top players, too, and I thought Katherine Groenenboom and Casey Schachter [senior backs] did a good job on Danielle Shearer and Stephanie Rogers."
Sophomore Cyprian Gillingham went into the game with the all-time scoring record for St. Mary's County (26 goals, 18 assists), but with sophomore Jen Lee shadowing her, Gillingham was more of a threat in distributing the ball.
North Carroll was hampered by the loss of senior sweeper Kellyn Hentz, who was hurt midway through the first half. "The pain is on the outside of my [right] leg and foot," she explained. "I tried to kick, but couldn't."
She did go back in for two brief stints, including the last four minutes of the half, but then limped off, not to return. Freshman Brandy Jenkins played well in her absence.
Sophomore Elizabeth Jenny put Leonardtown in front 25 minutes into the game when she scored from 7 yards out on a shot where goalkeeper Beth Reeb was screened and never moved on the ball.
Six minutes into the second half, Shearer set up North Carroll's goal. When she attracted defenders in front of the goal, keeper Carolyn Matisick came out and slipped getting into the play. Shearer deflected the ball to Lacey Hentz, who had an unguarded net in front of her.
"When they scored, our heads went down, but we recovered. I think maybe we wanted it more," said Leonardtown senior sweeper Elaine Chun.
Moments before, Rogers, who, over the past three weeks had single-mindedly picked up her teammates and carried them to the final, had said, "We didn't have it today.
"I'm still proud of this team though, because in my four years we had never come close [to a state championship] before."
Pub Date: 11/22/98