Blazers don't fall easily to Leopards

October 03, 2007|By CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

CLEAR SPRING - It seemed that the only chance the No. 3 Smithsburg girls soccer team had at netting a goal Tuesday night against Clear Spring would be the penalty-kick opportunity it got in the 56th minute.

But the way Blazers goalie Beth Andrews had been playing, even that scoring chance was in question.

Leopards senior Gretchen Downey put to rest any doubts by winning the one-on-one against Andrews to give life to the Leopards' stammering offense, which resurged with an insurance goal with 6 1/2 minutes left to leave with a 2-0 MVAL Antietam victory.

"Gretchen has taken penalty kicks in regional finals, so I thought, 'Who better than to take one when we needed a score?'" said Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes. "Clear Spring played with a lot of confidence and a lot of guts. Hats off to them for playing a heck of a game."

Clear Spring (5-4, 1-1) stood toe-to-toe with the two-time defending Maryland Class 1A state champs as the teams battled to a scoreless tie with less than 25 minutes left. Smithsburg (5-2-1, 2-0) still controlled much off the game by holding advantages of 16-4 in shots and 7-1 in corner kicks, but Andrews kept the Blazers in the game by recording 13 saves.


"That's something that I've come to expect from (Andrews)," said Clear Spring coach Jeff Semler. "I'm certainly biased, but I think she might be the best goalkeeper in the area."

It wasn't until Andrews was isolated on the PK that she finally let the ball slip through.

"Any time you get a spot kick like that, the shooter will always have the advantage," Semler said. "If the keeper makes the save, it's usually only because they made the right guess."

Smithsburg added to the lead in the 74th minute when Kortney Morral passed up the right seam to Chelsea Hoover, who dished to Stevey Markovich at the right goalpost. Markovich gave it right back to Hoover at the left goalpost, and she scored just underneath a diving Andrews for a 2-0 edge.

"We've been preaching that we need to combine our play and frame the goal," Fowkes said. "It was good to see Chelsea Hoover finish that goal because she's been struggling a bit. Hopefully that will get her going."

It was the entire Smithsburg offense that struggled early Tuesday. The Leopards took 10 shots on goal in the first half alone and came up empty each time. Many of the squandered chances were because of Andrews' resilience in goal. Several others were because Smithsburg simply could not finish.

The Leopards had a two-minute span about 15 minutes into the game when they unleashed four shots on goal. Three were taken inside the box by 2006 All-Area forward Shelby Layman, but two were saved and a third went wide.

"At times, we looked like a team that hasn't played in nine days," said Fowkes, whose team had not played since losing to No. 1 North Hagerstown in the Washington County Tournament final on Sept. 22. "But the story of our season is that we've had a lot of opportunities. We just haven't been able to score a lot of goals."

Meanwhile, Clear Spring had its three-game winning streak snapped.

"All I ever ask is that we leave everything on the field," Semler said. "We have a tough mountain to climb, but we just want to get better every game. I think we're doing it at the right time."

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