With teammates Haley Barge and Ashley Yurich standing next to her, Linganore goalkeeper Maddie Cunningham started rattling off names of former teammates who reached out to them before Saturday’s Class 3A state semifinals.
Meredith Lapen. Ines Garofolo. Miranda Keaton. Miranda Timberlake.
Realizing the task of naming all of the well-wishers who badly wanted the Lancers to exact some measure of revenge was quite difficult, Barge cut Cunningham off.
“Let’s just say everyone,” Barge said.
On this day, “everyone” was quite happy as Linganore beat Bel Air 2-1 to advance to next week’s 3A state final, which will take place at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex. The Lancers (14-1-2) will take on Huntingtown (11-4) — a 1-0 winner over Atholton in Saturday’s other 3A state semifinal. The date and time of the game have yet to be announced.
The last time the Lancers reached the state final, in 2015, Bel Air beat them in penalty kicks.
“We really wanted to do it for them as well as us to get the win,” said Cunningham, who did her part in the first half by deflecting one hard shot by Bel Air leading scorer Lexi Kraemer over the crossbar and reaching high in the air to make another save on a long-distance shot.
Cunningham was also involved in some late-game drama, when an official ruled the Linganore goalkeeper secured a loose ball in the box, dropped it and then wrongfully picked it up again — a violation that led to a free kick from Kraemer at the top of the 6-yard box.
“I didn’t feel like I caught it [originally]; I feel like I just blocked it,” Cunningham said.
With a wall in front of the net, Kramer then rifled a shot into the upper right corner of the net in the 75th minute, but officials disallowed the goal because Kramer’s kick was indirect and that the ball should have been contacted by another teammate before going into the goal.
For the remainder of the contest, the Lancers sagged back and survived some more late-game pressure, with minutes often seeming as if they were hours to the Lancers.
“It feels like the clock isn’t moving at all,” Cunningham said.
When the Lancers saw nothing but zeroes, the feeling of victory was never so gratifying.
“Indescribable,” said Yurich, who pumped home a penalty kick in the 33rd minute for the go-ahead goal.
Before going into survival mode, Linganore had some early adversity it needed to overcome. Even before the game started, junior midfielder Fiona Rowan figured they couldn’t be on edge if they expected a win.
“The past two times we played at states, [Coach Howie Putterman] told us again and again that all we did was just play nervous,” Rowan said. “We told each other, we can’t go out and play nervous ever again.”
Their resolve was tested in the 23rd minute, when Kraemer opened the scoring by settling a free kick from Carolyn Doheny near the top of the 6-yard box and slotting in a low shot. It took Linganore just 31 seconds to respond as Nora Salter sent in a cross from the right side of the field to Barge, who made a run across the goal mouth and redirected the cross into the net just as she passed the right goalpost. In the process, Barge tied Linganore’s single-season goal record of 23 that Keaton established last year.
Putterman said his team’s ability to respond came as a result of being involved in several tight games during which the Lancers had to scratch and claw for victories this season.
“After [the opposition] gets a goal, we always tell them, ‘Next two minutes, next two minutes,’” Putterman said.
Yurich was told she’d get the responsibility of taking penalty kicks, but that didn’t take away the butterflies she felt in her stomach.
“I was thinking, ‘I can do this, I can do this,’” said Yurich, who received the opportunity when officials ruled Bel Air goalkeeper Jill Kozak drove through Barge when both players were trying to address a ball in the air in the penalty box. “That’s all that went through my head.
“I was so relieved, I was happy it went in. I’m really happy the goalie guessed the wrong way.”