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Leopards make their points from the corner

November 14, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

ANNAPOLIS - Smithsburg's girls soccer team backed Sparrows Point into one corner kick after another during Monday's Maryland Class 1A state semifinal, and Cara Jordan made sure the Pointers did not escape.

A year removed from defeating Sparrows Point 2-0 in the state final, the Leopards booked a return trip to University of Maryland-Baltimore County by earning 12 corner kicks and letting Jordan do the rest. Her dangerous crosses led directly to both Smithsburg goals and the Leopards claimed a 2-1 victory at Broadneck High School.

Smithsburg (16-3) will face the winner of Monday night's other semifinal between Snow Hill and Perryville on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. It's the fourth time in six years the Leopards will play for the Class 1A state title - Smithsburg shared the title with Loch Raven in 2001 and lost to Poolesville in two overtimes in 2002.

"That's quite an accomplishment," Leopards coach Bill Fowkes said. "We set high standards and challenge the girls every year to get to UMBC."

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Smithsburg struck first in the 10th minute on Jordan's second corner kick of the game, a soaring strike right to the front of the 6-yard box, where Chelsea Hoover headed it into the top of the net.

"I'm just trying to put it in there and hope they get to it," Jordan said.

"We're just trying to get the ball to the center of the goal," Fowkes said, confirming the Leopards' strategy of aiming for a spot rather than targeting a particular player on corner kicks. "Our girls are just trying to get to the ball. That was probably the second or third goal (Hoover) has scored on a header."

Sparrows Point (9-7) tied it in stunning fashion in the 22nd minute. Melissa Wampler sent a towering shot from 60 yards away toward Smithsburg keeper Kirsten Cacciola, who had to choose between attempting to catch the hard shot on the fly about 15 yards in front of her goal or let it bounce in front. She chose to let it bounce, and it was the wrong choice, as the ball took a hard and fast carom off the artificial turf, over Cacciola and into the goal.

Deflated, the Leopards failed to play up to their potential for the rest of the half, and the teams went into halftime tied.

"The first 25 minutes of the first half, we played to our game plan," Fowkes said. "The long goal goes in, and it changed things. We talked about getting back to what we were doing before the goal, and in the second half, we did that."

Smithsburg controlled most of the play in the second half, allowing only one real dangerous opportunity - Kristen Collison's free kick from 25 yards following a handball that sailed about two feet over the crossbar - while pressuring the Pointers deep into, and often beyond, their own end.

Finally, the Leopards struck again in the 57th minute. Jordan's corner kick sailed across near the far post, where it was touched back toward the middle. Katie Seifarth happened to be waiting right there, and she opportunistically booted the ball with her left foot into the goal for a 2-1 lead both Jordan and Fowkes were correct in believing would stand up.

"We just controlled the field in the second half," Jordan said. "I knew we had it."

"In a game like this in the playoffs, a lot of times set plays are what determines the outcome," Fowkes said. "We work on those in practice, and we were able to convert two. ... The way we were playing, when we got that last one, I thought we'd be good."

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