Always on the offensive

Liberty: The Lions' hopes rest on a powerful attack that is unmatched in the county and perhaps in the Baltimore area.

March 20, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The Liberty Lions have taken the adage that the best defense is a good offense to the extreme.

Consider that five of the county's top seven scorers from last season are returning players, and four play for Liberty.

Michelle Allen, Jessica Roguski, Becky Trumbo, and Meagan Voight combined to score 168 goals and chipped in 100 assists last year. Their goals made up more than 63 percent of the Lions' offense.

And when you throw in a rule change limiting the number of players in the defensive zone and the lifting of a previous restriction by Liberty coach Courtney Vaughn, it's difficult not to cast the Lions as decided favorites to compete for the Class 4A-3A state championship.

"I don't see them not having a record as good as last year's," South Carroll coach Bridget Harris said of Liberty, which went 17-3 after falling to Annapolis in the state finals. "They've got young players who are standouts. I'm sure they'll go to states again this year."

The optimism is omnipresent. Long-distance runs during practice have included chants predicting a rematch with the Panthers of Anne Arundel County, and nearly every player agrees that a trip to the state finals may not be enough to characterize the season as successful.

Even Vaughn, usually hesitant to publicize her expectations, said she is convinced of her team's ability.

"When all is said and done, this may be the strongest team we have ever put out," said Vaughn, who also attached that label to last season's squad. "They can go as far as they want to go."

The Lions' hopes rest on a powerful attack that is unmatched in the county and perhaps in the Baltimore area. Allen, a senior midfielder who will attend Cornell on a lacrosse scholarship, was second in the county in scoring with 36 goals and 53 assists.

Roguski, a senior midfielder who will play for Vanderbilt next season, was fourth with 41 goals and 24 assists.

Voight, a sophomore midfielder who posted 52 goals and nine assists, was fifth, while Trumbo, a freshman attacker who registered 39 goals and 14 assists, was seventh.

All that firepower takes the pressure off one player to carry the team, Voight said.

"It's nice to know that anyone can put the ball in the goal," she said. "It just proves that not one person will have to do everything."

Added Allen: "It gives us a lot of confidence. We know that we can pick each other up."

As if to make life easier for the Liberty foursome, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association is applying a 30-yard restraining line that allows only seven defenders and a goalkeeper in the defensive end.

In previous seasons, opposing defenses were permitted to bring all 11 players into the zone to shut down attacks. Now, Vaughn predicts, the restraining line will open up passing and cutting lanes for goal scorers.

Even Vaughn is getting into the act by giving her players the green light to use their array of trick shots -- fancy behind-the-head or behind-the-back shots that many coaches frown upon.

For Vaughn, the concession is a testament to her players' talent.

"They've got placements on their trick shots that are just as good as their regular shots," she said. "If it becomes a problem, we'll take a look at it, but it's nice because we're letting them be creative."

Trumbo said the team was pleasantly surprised by Vaughn's vote of confidence.

"Sometimes you're in a position where that's the only shot you can take," she said. "It's nice to know that if you mess up, it's OK."

Messing up is not on the team's agenda this season, Roguski said. She said the team has not forgotten last season's 13-4 loss to Annapolis.

"It was really frustrating when you work so hard to get to the last game and you can't close it out," she said. "It gives us an indication of what we need to do and of where we need to be."

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