Here’s a question not many people would have asked even a month ago:
Is this the best girls soccer team Linganore High has put on the field? Better than a team that went 34-4 and played for a pair of state titles over the past two seasons, in addition to sending three players to Division I colleges?
With each passing game this fall, the idea seems less and less far-fetched.
By all accounts, this Linganore team is a much tighter-knit group. Not that the Lancers were a house divided over the past two seasons, but this team feels a lot more like “family,” according to senior Miranda Timberlake, who moved from the midfield to striker this season.
And, contrary to what some might think, the level of talent on the team might be as high as it has ever been, even with the loss of Montanna Hill (Coastal Carolina), Elizabeth Coletti (Towson) and Hannah Hoefs (Maryland) to graduation.
After Thursday night’s 5-1 home win over Brunswick, the Lancers are 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the Central Maryland Conference.
Senior striker Miranda Keaton scored three goals against the Railroaders to raise her total to 15 for the season. That’s only six goals shy of Hill’s single-season school record, and there are still five games to go in the regular season.
Timberlake, a strong middie last season, has been a terrific addition up top. She had three assists against Brunswick to raise her total to 10 for the season, to go along with six goals.
“I like it,” she said of the switch. “I am definitely more attacking-minded now.”
Midfielders Meredith Lapen (three goals, five assists), Haley Barge (four goals, one assist) Fiona Rowan and Taylor Ferguson are also making big contributions.
Rowan is a sophomore. Ferguson is a freshman. Both players made their presence felt against Brunwick. Rowan scored with an assist from Timberlake, while Ferguson had an assist on one of Keaton’s goals.
Senior defender Mallory Maher also scored on a penalty kick, which was the result of a Brunswick hand ball.
On the last two Linganore teams, the bulk of the scoring was generated by just a handful of players. However, on this team, the offensive wealth is much more spread out, potentially making the Lancers harder to defend.
“These girls have been playing together [for a long time],” Linganore coach Howie Putterman said. “They didn’t get the stars [in recent seasons]. They didn’t get the fanfare.
“But all the good teams Linganore has had, these girls have been a part of. They were the players that helped to make everyone look as good as they did. Now they are getting their chance to shine.”
In 2014, the Lancers steamrolled just about everyone they played. They did not lose a game until the state final.
Last season, they dropped an early season game to South Carroll, and the tension on the team spiked noticeably.
“Last year, there was this feeling that we have to win every game,” Timberlake said. “This year, it doesn’t matter. We realize that you just have to win the last six [in the playoffs].”
Already this season, the Lancers have played poorly and lost to Westminster and played well and fallen to Urbana.
“Even when we lost,” Timberlake said, “we were able to talk with each other and see what we needed to improve on and not get down on ourselves.”
Linganore played so hard and so well in a 2-0 loss at Urbana on Sept. 16 that Putterman said, “For the first time in a number of years, I enjoyed a game that we lost.”
The path back to another state final is long and filled with obstacles. Not many people gave these Lancers a chance to successfully navigate it.
But, with each passing week, their confidence grows, and the belief increases that they just might be able to pull it off.
“I look forward to practice every day,” Putterman said. “I look forward to games. I never go home in a bad mood. At the start of the season, our team theme was unity. It has carried us throughout. It makes us better.”