So often, the Linganore girls soccer team wins games by simply blowing the opposition off the field with its high-powered offense, led by three Division I recruits.
On Thursday night, the nationally ranked Lancers were able to hold off visiting Urbana 2-1 with their often overlooked defensive prowess.
Senior goalkeeper Katelyn Duda, a first-year starter, denied Urbana a momentum-changing goal late in the first half with a strong kick save, and Linganore generally clamped down when necessary to improve to 4-0 this season.
“In my mind, [Katelyn] saved the game tonight,” Lancers coach Howie Putterman said.
Instead of trailing for the first time all season and just the second time in two years, Duda came out and aggressively challenged Urbana’s Caitlin Shepherd after the sophomore striker broke free with the ball in the middle of Linganore’s defense.
Duda blocked Shepherd’s shot by sticking out her right leg in a timely manner with just under 11 seconds to play in the first half.
“If they score on that, it’s a completely different dynamic,” Putterman said.
Instead, Linganore seized the momentum, as it often does, on a goal from senior striker Montanna Hill, a Coastal Carolina recruit.
Hill turned in traffic and scored the game’s first goal with 2:45 to play in the first half after receiving a nifty pass from teammate Elizabeth Coletti, a Towson recruit.
“She lifted the ball right over the head of my center back,” Urbana coach Chuck Nichols said with some degree of amazement about Coletti’s pass. “There just aren’t many players in the state of Maryland who can do that.”
Hill added her second goal of the game and sixth of the season with roughly 28 minutes left in the second half after taking the ball right off the foot of an Urbana defender. That extended Linganore’s lead to 2-0.
But, from that point on, it was up to the Linganore defense, which conceded just five goals last season on the way to a 17-1 record and a runner-up finish in Class 3A.
Shepherd got her head on a cross at the back post, closing Urbana’s deficit to 2-1 with 23:24 to play. It was not just the first goal the Lancers had allowed all season, it was one of the few scoring chances they have given up so far. Shepherd’s earlier chance, denied by Duda, would also rank highly on that list.
Urbana (3-1-1) applied some pressure over the closing minutes, but never came close to notching the equalizer.
“Linganore is one of the best teams in the state,” Nichols said. “They proved that last year.”
It helped Linganore that senior defender Katie Lamb was back in the lineup.
Lamb, one of the team’s most consistent players, made an errant step while making a challenge in last season’s 3A West championship game at Damascus, causing her fibula to break.
That forced her to sit out the Lancers’ state semifinal against Northern Calvert and the championship game against River Hill, during which they conceded two goals in the first seven minutes after allowing just three all season going into that game.
“It was so hard,” Lamb said. “I was crying not being able to play in those games.”
Although Valerie Becker did an admirable job of filling in, the Lancers were clearly a different team without Lamb on the field.
“She just brings a very smart, solid consistency to our defense,” Putterman said. “There’s a reason I have not taken her out of a game beyond injury for two and a half years now. She’s calm. She makes the right decisions. She’s not flashy. But she’s able to possess the ball and able to direct the people around her very quietly.”
Linganore’s ability to play offense and defense is whytopdrawersoccer.com moved the Lancers up to No. 19 this week in its national girls soccer rankings.
In addition to Hill and Coletti, senior midfielder Hannah Hoefs, who will play at Maryland, gives Linganore another dynamic playmaker and scoring threat.
“The girls know they have the target on their back,” Putterman said. “They recognize that [success] is not a gift. You don’t automatically walk into a regional final or games like that. They are going to have to work for it.”