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Hubs nip Leopards for 'title'

October 14, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

While there is no official MVAL Antietam Conference girls soccer championship game, the title contest was most likely played Monday night.

Seniors Kelly Salvagno and Brenna Bacon both converted on penalty kicks to lift Herald-Mail second-ranked North Hagerstown over top-ranked Smithsburg 2-0 on North's Senior Recognition Night at School Stadium.

The Hubs (11-1, 5-0) remained unbeaten in conference play, while avenging their only loss of the season - a 3-2 setback to Smithsburg in the Washington County Tournament final - and handing the Leopards (12-1, 4-1) their first loss.

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"This is the biggest win of the year and the biggest ever for this school," North coach Rick Aleshire said. "It was for the league title.

"We each have two games left. If we beat South Hagerstown (winless in the league) Saturday, it's ours."

Getting by Smithsburg was no easy task. The Leopards had outscored opponents 49-3 entering the game, with forwards Shannon Fowkes and Kristen Poffenberger combining for 35 goals and 21 assists.

The Hubs countered with defenders Christine Wason and Cara Thompson.

"We knew Wason could shut (Fowkes) down. She is a tremendously good defensive player," Aleshire said. "And we put our big freshman Cara Thompson on Poffenberger, and we knew with her athletic ability she could handle it."

Smithsburg keeper Candace Stanford, who leads the area with nine shutouts, lost her chance for a 10th in the final seconds of the first half after the Leopards were penalized for a handball in their box.

Salvagno took the penalty kick and drove it into the high, left corner of the net for a 1-0 North lead.

"I just had to stay calm and focused and do what I had to do," Salvagno said, "and luckily it went in."

The lead was far from secure, though.

"Last time we played Smithsburg," Bacon said, "we were up 1-0, and they came back to beat us."

But a two-goal lead is a different story. And that's what Bacon gave the Hubs after the Leopards were penalized for tripping in the box, as her low drive to the right slipped through Stanford's grasp for the score.

"That second penalty kick kind of rattled us," Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes said.

North captured any remaining Smithsburg momentum five minutes later, on another penalty kick, as Shannon Fowkes' attempt sailed over the cross bar.

"Unfortunately, we didn't convert. That's soccer," Bill Fowkes said. "We were just out of sync offensively, and they did a good job taking us out of our game. They're a good team.

"You'd like to win them all, but that's not a reality. It helps put things back in perspective. We just have to regroup and go back to work."

The Hubs outshot the Leopards 11-7 and outcornered them, 2-1. North keeper Alexa Suiter made five saves for her seventh shutout of the year, while Stanford had seven saves.

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