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Leopards are state champs

November 19, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER/Staff Correspondent

CATONSVILLE, Md. - The Smithsburg girls soccer team lost one of its team captains and its biggest midfield presence when Katie Seifarth was forced out of the Maryland Class 1A championship game against Perryville on Saturday night.

But as always, the Leopards rallied around one another and came up with three second-half goals to defeat Perryville 4-1 for its second straight state title and third in six years.

"We always challenge the girls and ask them what they are willing to do with each other," said Leopards coach Bill Fowkes. "The girls faced some adversity at the end of the first half with some injuries, but they definitely stepped up."

Seifarth was forced from the game with just more than 10 minutes left in the first half, when she went into the air after a free ball and collided with a Perryville player. By the time she landed, her nose was broken and dripping with blood.

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"I just went for the ball," Seifarth said. "I was really disappointed that I couldn't come back, but I knew my teammates would pick me up."

Cara Jordan sent a corner kick to Shelby Layman, who scored early in the game to give Smithsburg (17-3) a 1-0 lead before the injury occurred.

Less than a minute after Seifarth left the game, Perryville's Ashley Northam tied the game on a direct kick from 35 yards out.

Seifarth didn't return to the game and saw her last soccer action as a Leopard from the sideline with a bandage on her nose. But the Leopards got a lift in the midfield from Jenna Burns and Danielle Berk, who combined to fill the hole left by Seifarth's absence.

The game remained tied at 1 until Smithsburg took control in the second half. The Leopards allowed only one shot on goal, which opened up more opportunities for the offense.

"We lost shape in the first half," said Jordan, whose second corner-kick assist put the Leopards ahead 2-1 in the 50th minute. "(Fowkes) just talked calmly to us that we had to get it together and get it going in the second half."

Jordan's second corner got deflected in the box but Berk gained control and fired it past Perryville goalie Becca Jackson to give the Leopards the lead for good.

"Our set pieces were working well for us," Fowkes said. "Cara Jordan does a great job setting them and we can usually make a play on them."

The Leopards were 2-for-2 on corner kicks in the game and gained separation on the third goal, which came off a direct kick from about 25 yards. Jordan sent the kick off the crossbar and Chelsea Hoover got the rebound and booted it in to give the Leopards a 3-1 lead in the 69th minute.

Just 24 seconds later, Layman scored her second goal on a fast break to put the game away.

"(Perryville) played much better than they did when we scouted them," Fowkes said. "They played an inspired game, but when we got that third goal, I think it really took it out of them."

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