ESSEX — They have looked the part all season. Now they have one more game to prove they are finally worthy of wearing the crown.
In Saturday night’s Class 3A girls soccer semifinal at CCBC-Essex, the Linganore Lancers treated Northern (Calvert) like they have most opponents this season.
They generated enough pressure to secure the goals they needed. In return, they gave up nothing.
The result was a rather routine 2-0 victory that sent the Lancers into a girls soccer state final for the first time in school history.
Linganore (17-0), which has outscored the opposition 59-3 so far, will meet River Hill (16-2) in the 3A championship game later this week at Loyola University.
"I don’t know if I have ever doubted them. But I have lost the ability to not trust that they are going to come through,” Lancers coach Howie Putterman.
Linganore was making its first appearance in a state semifinal since 1995, the only other time it has advanced this far.
After 30 relatively neutral minutes, the Lancers finally cracked the stingy back line of Northern, which was one of the best defensive teams they faced all season.
Montanna Hill got the ball to Elizabeth Coletti, a fellow junior striker, in space, and Coletti buried the chance for a 1-0 lead with 9 minutes, 2 seconds to play in the first half.
"It was a beautiful pass,” said Coletti, the second leading scorer in Frederick County behind Hill.
Given that Linganore has only allowed one goal this season when the outcome was still in doubt, the game felt like it was about over at that point.
But, just in case, the Lancers added another one in the first 35 seconds of the second half, as Coletti fed a ball across the crease to junior midfielder Megan Werner, who steered it into the open net for her second goal of the season, which have both come in the last two games.
"I think she was tired of not scoring goals,” Putterman said.
Coletti raised her season totals to 14 goals and 13 assists. That gives her 41 points, which puts her four behind Hill, who has notched 20 goals and five assists.
The two of them playing up top presents defenses with an almost impossible challenge. It’s pick your poison. Teams that direct their efforts toward stopping one can be picked apart by the other.
And if that wasn’t hard enough, there are other players to worry about, too, such as senior midfielder McKenzie McCaull, the News-Post Co-Player of the Year last season, junior Hannah Hoefs, a leading scorer for a state finalist (Parkside) last season before transferring back to Linganore, as well as emerging scoring threats like Werner.
Senior goalkeeper Rhianna Lapen, meanwhile, notched her 14th shutout of the season and continues to come through any time she is called upon.
When asked what has kept the team so focused through every game this season, Coletti said, "The mentality we have for the possibility of winning states. That is our ultimate goal.”
Linganore will have to beat a good team to achieve it. River Hill has played a challenging schedule and is riding a 13-game winning streak.
"The state championship is what it should be,” Putterman said. "It’s what I think are the two best teams out there. We scrimmaged against them in the preseason. So, we know how tough they are going to be.”