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Leopards rewarded in playoffs

October 29, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI

SMITHSBURG -- The Smithsburg girls soccer team punched its time card for the last time.

The work is done. Now it's time for the payoff.

The Leopards moved into the reward stage of the season on Thursday when they faced Hancock in the Maryland Class 1A West first round. The time invested in the prelude called the regular season helped Smithsburg snatch a 4-0 victory at Coach Carroll Reid Field.

"Everything we did this year was to get ready for a good state tournament run," said Smithsburg coach David Jones. "We weren't worried about the county tournament or the league title, everything we did was pointing to this."

The Leopards got the point as Ashley Ferguson had a goal and an assist and Desiree Sowers popped in two late goals to salt away the victory. Smithsburg waded through sloppy conditions and the defensive-minded Panthers to win the right to play top-seeded Mountain Ridge in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

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It made Thursday's game all the more important for the Leopards (4-8-1).

"We needed this game," Jones said. "The more time we can get on the field, the more it will help us. It gives us one more shot for us to get everything down."

Hancock (2-9-1) made it difficult for Smithsburg. The Panthers had a golden opportunity to take a quick lead in the first minute, but left the open shot short in the tall, wet grass.

The Leopards kept the ball on the Panthers' side of the field for the most part, but couldn't find an open spot to work.

Then in the 19th minute, Ferguson found the ball at her feet some 25 yards out along the right sideline. She took the pass from Rachel Poffenberger and got the balance to fire the shot into the left side of the goal past Hancock goalkeeper Chandra Younker.

"It was pretty much like the one I had against Williamsport," Ferguson said. "It was just get over it and whack it. We had to keep our heads up and keep working."

The first goal was a huge first step for the Leopards.

"It was big just because we scored," Jones said. "We had battled for 20 minutes and to get a goal in that spot was big."

Hancock managed to keep the deficit at 1-0 at the half, but was having trouble with its timing to get back into the game. The Panthers were one pass short of putting something together offensively to contend.

"We either wouldn't get the pass or wouldn't get it soon enough," Hancock coach Karen Sornson said. "They knew what to do but couldn't finish it. We have been all defense all year. I'm just so proud of how far these girls have come."

Smithsburg moved into the second phase of its game plan in the second half by putting the finishing touches on the game. The Leopards scored two goals in a five-minute stretch to take a 3-0 lead.

Monica Hovermale scored from 10 yards out in the 53rd minute off a pass from Ferguson that got past Hancock's defense. Sowers got her first goal in the 58th minute by juking Younker out of position on Emily Hargreaves' pass. Younker left the game with an injury after that.

Sowers picked up her second goal during extra time to cap the game.

Smithsburg outshot Hancock 22-3. Younker and Kelsie Munch combined for 15 saves for the Panthers.

"The big key for us was being patient for 80 minutes," Jones said. "That's one thing we talked about this season. There are things that we can't control -- like a playing on a sloppy field -- but we waited for our opportunities."

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