Of all the candidates to score Linganore’s game-winning goal Thursday night, sophomore Brooke Bennett would not have been high on the list.
Bennett had missed most the season for the Lancers due to an ankle injury. This was just her fourth game back since being medically cleared to return.
In addition, Bennett is not a goal scorer by trade. She plays center-back for her club soccer team and would have done the same for Linganore had she not gotten hurt.
Yet there Bennett was, in the right place and the right time, just when the Lancers needed her.
Following a corner kick by teammate Fiona Rowan, Bennett was part of the scrum in front of the Thomas Johnson goal. All of the sudden, the ball popped onto her foot, and she knocked it in for a 2-1 overtime win over the Patriots in a Class 3A West regional semifinal.
“I was so excited because I am not really a player who scores,” Bennett said after tallying her first goal of the season.
After hearing for most of the season that they were inferior to Linganore’s terrific girls soccer teams of the last three seasons, these Lancers put the school in the 3A West championship game for the third time in four years.
Linganore (12-1-2) will host the winner of this evening’s game between Westminster and Blake on Tuesday night for a spot in the state semifinals.
Already this season, the Lancers beat Blake 3-0 on Sept. 2 and tied Westminster 2-2 on Sept. 18. The Owls erased a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and the tie.
“If you would have talked to me about playing in a regional final [earlier in the season], I would have laughed at you,” Linganore coach Howie Putterman said. “I didn’t think we had it. But these girls proved me wrong. They have been fantastic from Day 1.
“We weren’t supposed to be great this year. That’s what [outsiders] kept saying. [These players] are living off of that. They are absolutely living on everyone saying we would never be here this year. That’s their motivation.”
Asked what was the difference in Thursday night’s game, Thomas Johnson coach Adam Weinstein said, “Not much.”
The Patriots (9-4-1) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first half when senior midfielder Becca Dennis found the ball on her foot after it pinballed around the Linganore goal box. All Dennis really had to do was knock it into the empty net.
It was very similar to the goal Bennett would score in overtime.
TJ had a few good chances to take the lead in the second half. On one such chance, the Patriots’ outstanding senior striker and leading scorer, Ainsley Jeter, took the ball from the Linganore defense and watched her shot roll just wide of the far post with just under 27 minutes to play.
“I am so proud of [the team],” Weinstein said. “I’ve got to be honest. It’s a little mixed emotions right now. But I couldn’t be prouder of them. I couldn’t be happier with the way they fought tonight. Quite honestly, there was never a thought in my mind that we weren’t going to come out of here and host our own region championship game on Tuesday night.”
After giving up the lead right before halftime, the Lancers were not in the best of moods.
“What a buzzkill,” Putterman said. “For the first five minutes, we [didn’t] even go over to them at halftime. They were dejected. They felt defeated.”
Realizing their season would likely end if they didn’t play more assertively in the second half, the Lancers went about doing so.
With a little more than 24 minutes to play, sophomore Allyson Gagne centered a ball for the team’s leading scorer, Haley Barge, who directed it into the net with her head to tie the game at 1-1.
“In the second half, we brought the intensity,” Bennett said.
When Bennett was ready to return to the team in early October, the Linganore defense was playing so well that the coaches didn’t want to mess with the lineup by putting her back there.
So, they shifted Bennett forward into more a defensive-midfielder role. But even that was subject to change.
In Thursday’s game, Bennett was flip-flopping at various points with senior captain Ashley Yurich between an offensive midfielder role and defensive midfielder role.
“It was simply to rest some legs,” Putterman said. “It was also because Ashley is one of our best attacking center midfielders and one of our best defensive-holding middies. With a team as talented as TJ, we needed her to play defense once we got the tying goal.”
So, that moved Bennett back up top and put her in position to score the game-winning goal.
“I did remind them that we had gone to overtime three times this year and we had yet to win,” Putterman said. “So, they came out right away and were the aggressors. They were talking about [scoring] in the first three minutes, and, sure enough, that’s what happened.”
Bennett scored her game-winner just 1 minute and 26 seconds into the 10-minute overtime session.