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Knights, Titans hope numbers add up to state titles

November 20, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Taking a quick glance at some of the numbers, probably not many people would have picked the Middletown and Tuscarora girls soccer teams as Maryland state finalists.

Five and seven. That was Middletown's record a month ago.

Zero and two. Those are the number of seniors and the number of juniors on Tuscarora's team, which is competing at the varsity level for the first year (another eye-catching numerical listing).

The Knights and Titans have defied numerical logic. Both will play for state titles today at University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

Middletown (12-7) faces J.M. Bennett (19-0) in the Class 2A final at 2:30 p.m. Tuscarora (15-2) plays Sparrows Point (12-4) in the Class 1A final at 7:30 p.m.

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· Since their 2-0 loss to McDonogh on Oct. 19, which dropped their record to 5-7, the Middletown girls have won seven straight matches. They're now one victory away from their fourth state title and first since 2000.

"We've just gotten better every game," Middletown second-year coach Heather Kline said. "We had a lot of close games that we ended up losing (including four in overtime), so our record didn't look that good. As a team, we were much better than our record was.

"I knew we had the talent. I knew there was something in them. It was just a matter of putting it all together. Once we beat Winters Mill (3-1 in the West region semis to avenge one of the OT losses), we all sort of knew that winning it all was a possibility."

Offensively, the Knights are led by junior forward Whitney Boyer, senior forward Ali Keeney and junior midfielder Meagan Sheffler. Each has nine goals. Sheffler, who scored the lone goal in Middletown's 1-0 win over Atholton in the state semis, is an All-State Second Team selection.

"Meagan has stepped into the role of team leader on the field. She just makes things happen," Kline said. "But truthfully, our success comes from the fact that we have no one real great person. We have a lot of people who work hard."

They'll have their work cut out for them against unbeaten J.M. Bennett, which is anchored by All-State First Team goalkeeper Brittany Curtis.

"They're 19-0. On paper they have a lot of good players, players who have scored many goals, and they have an excellent keeper," Kline said. "So we're looking forward to a really good game.

"Our focus right now is just to stay in the game."

· Don't be deceived by Tuscarora's lack of high school experience.

"Basically our entire roster plays in the club environment year round, and that's what really brings kids around," Tuscarora coach Mark Wolcott said. "Their experience is far past their age because of that environment."

These Titans are very young. Their roster is comprised of two juniors, 10 sophomores and nine freshmen.

"At the start of the year, we knew we'd be successful," Wolcott said. "But the questions were about maturity and where the leadership would come from.

"The leadership has come from our youthfulness. They play with a lot of passion and energy and almost don't know that this isn't supposed to happen. They don't know any better. They just want to go and compete, and they expect to be successful. Why not? They don't know anything else."

Junior midfielder Molly Franklin, an All-State First Team selection, leads Tuscarora with 19 goals and 11 assists. Forwards Courtney Yee, Chrissy Conrad and Natalie Salovich have combined for 28 goals and 17 assists.

"When you're looking for things to occur, people look for Molly," Wolcott said. "The thing that separates her is her attitude. She's willing to put everything on her shoulders and say, 'I'm going to win this thing.'"

Against Smithsburg in the state semis, the Titans - who have outscored opponents 62-13 - jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then held on for dear life to win, 3-2. Sparrows Point probably won't be easy to put away early, either.

"The last two games they came from behind to win in OT. They're very athletic and they're not going to give up," Wolcott said. "We need to play for 80 minutes."

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