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Goal oriented - Smithsburg follows plan to find route to state

November 20, 2005|By Dan Kauffman

kauffman@herald-mail.com

BALTIMORE - Having a good scouting report can do wonders for a team. So can executing a game plan.

So it's no surprise that, on those rare occasions when a team has a perfect scouting report, then goes out and plays flawlessly to take full advantage of it, the results are often staggering.

Smithsburg girls soccer coach Bill Fowkes had all the information on Sparrows Point he needed, and his game plan for Saturday afternoon's Maryland Class 1A state final at UMBC turned the Pioneers into sitting ducks. When the Leopards went out and did everything Fowkes asked them to, the end result, a 2-0 victory, was written in stone.

Smithsburg - 2005 Class 1A state champions.

"We knew their team liked to get a lead and pack it in on defense, and our goal was to not let them get the lead and not allow them to have space to operate," Fowkes said. "We had too much speed, ball control and depth. We wore them down as the game went on."

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The Sparrows Point blueprint for success ran into Smithsburg's defensive brick wall. The Leopards' back line - anchored by seniors Emily Burger and Courtney Brown - did not allow the Pioneers (14-3) so much as a single shot in the first half, and also didn't allow them the corner kicks and throw-ins they often used to score 56 goals in 16 games.

"(The key is) just containing people, not giving them time, and pressuring every ball," said Brown, who moved to the back line this season after playing the previous three seasons as a midfielder.

"We play as hard as we can for each other because we know we're playing for each other," Burger said. "All the hard work all the girls have put in for four years, I feel this is what every girl deserves today."

The Sparrows Point plan of scoring early worked great - for Smithsburg (17-1-1). In the second minute, a Pioneers clearing attempt went straight to sophomore Shelby Layman, who quickly fired a shot past keeper Amanda Cowan to give the Leopards a quick lead.

"It was a great way to start it off, to get ahead," Layman said. "It gave us the adrenaline to keep going."

"(The first goal) was huge," Brown said. "We knew this team always comes out early and scores, and we knew we had to shut them down."

Sparrows Point showed more life in the second half, charging out of the gates to put four shots on goal in the first five minutes. The Pioneers' best opportunity came on one of their most profitable plays - a corner kick - but Smithsburg keeper Kirsten Cacciola was up to the task, reflexively shooting her left hand out to make one of her four saves.

"Kirsten didn't have much work, but did make that big save," Fowkes said. "We knew Sparrows Point would come out aggressive the first 10 minutes and try to get the equalizer, and once we got through that, we felt confident."

Two minutes after Cacciola's key stop, the Leopards made another push downfield, and midfielder Katie Seifarth found Layman all alone in the middle about 15 yards from the goal. Layman's twisting shot beat Cowan and snuck inside the left post for the 2-0 lead.

"Shannon (Fowkes) was cutting to the goal and calling for the ball, and their keeper saw her and started leaning that way," Bill Fowkes said. "Shelby's shot caught her off guard."

"It's a complete team effort," Layman said, downplaying her individual impact. "The strikers may be scoring the goals, but it's the team that is earning them."

Smithsburg won its first outright state title and finished the season on a 16-match winning streak. The Leopards shared the 2001 crown with Loch Raven.

"Everyone contributes to the team, from the first player to the 24th player," Bill Fowkes said. "They all accept their roles, whatever they are, and that's what makes us a great team."

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