Linganore enjoys rare victory against Westminster -- Gazette.Net



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Urbana High School coach A.J. Stuart on Linganore’s Kate Russo: “She's just a tremendous goalie.”

Says her own coach, Mary Cate Henry: “Kate’s an awesome goalie. She’s a fantastic goalie.”

Even Westminster coach Mary Rivera got in on the shower of compliments, although she took a slightly different route in praising the senior: “It’s frustrating,” Rivera told the Carroll County Times on Nov. 2. “There’s nothing else to say about it. If they didn’t have her...”

Prior to Linganore’s second meeting with the Owls, Russo had proven herself a deserving candidate for all those commendations. She had not only held Urbana High School to two goals in Linganore’s 3-2 overtime win — the first county loss in more than a year for the Hawks — but also had stuffed a pair of one-on-ones with Urbana star Meg Stuart that would have decided it.

Several shutouts later she would improve upon that performance in a regional semifinal rematch with the Hawks as Linganore topped them 3-1 without the need for extra time.

But what she did against Rivera and Westminster; the two-time defending state champion, the school with the third-most state playoff appearances in Maryland, the program that seemed to be posturing itself to take over as the best of the 3A class, was just scary good.

Russo, after 26 shots, a penalty stroke, and two overtimes, kept the Carroll County power scoreless on Nov. 2 in Linganore’s 1-0 stunner against the Owls.

“That was the best game of field hockey I’ve ever played,” she said. “I could never have expected to play against Westminster and keep them from scoring. You don’t do that to Westminster.”

But Russo did, and after Bailey Tregoning scored on just the third shot the Lancers put on goal 73 minutes into the game, Linganore captured its first region title in nearly two decades.

McKenzie Ridgely said senior teammate, Lindsay Lawrence, was so overcome with emotion that consoling her was out of the question.

“[She] couldn’t get herself to stop the emotions coming,” Ridgely, a junior, said. “She was like, ‘I’ve never beaten Westminster before.’”

Not many teams who have stood in Westminster’s path have. The Owls are quite similar to what Middletown once was in the 1980s, when the Knights took five state championships in seven years, and topping them likely will overshadow the 2-0 loss Linganore suffered five days later in the state semis to Hereford.

“We went into it definitely seeing [Westminster] as equals,” Russo said. “We were so close in that first game; we beat Urbana twice, we were making such a strong presence.”

The first game. It had come more than two months ago, and Russo, to this day, still hasn’t gotten over the what-ifs that resulted from that season-opening matchup with the Owls. The Lancers clung to a 1-1 tie with less than two minutes remaining when Linganore defender Holly Gambrell got hit in the throat and dropped to the turf. Russo’s eyes went towards Gambrell.

“My main concern was, ‘Is Holly OK?’” she recalled.

But at the moment, Gambrell’s health wasn’t exactly priority No. 1 for Westminster. Beating Russo was. And it took advantage of the momentary distraction, scoring the game-winning goal that would stick with the Lancers for the 64 days until they would see the Owls again.

“I don't even think I can put it into words,” Russo said of her anticipation for Westminster after Linganore beat Urbana in the region semis. “I don't even know. Personally, I just want to crush them.”

Did the Lancers “crush” Westminster? Definitely not. A 1-0 win will never be considered a demolition by any means. But to Linganore, it may as well have been 10-0.

“I feel like we always think we’re underestimated,” Ridgely said. “It was liberating knowing we were up with the best. Being up there, it was nice. It was different, but it was nice.”

What’s funny now is that Henry, Russo, Lawrence and Tregoning once pointed to Urbana as the biggest game of the year.

“It’s Urbana, they’re our rivals, they’re our team to beat,” Russo said.

The pair of wins against the Hawks certainly was lifting and may have signaled a changing of the guard of sorts in the Frederick County field hockey hierarchy, but when Russo plays Urbana, she doesn’t get lightheaded with nerves. In the regional final with Westminster on Nov. 3, she admitted she was so anxious she felt like she was going to pass out the entire game.

“The only difference between [Westminster and Urbana] is their attitudes,” she said. “Westminster is there to play and there to win. But knowing coach Stuart and coach [Sally] Watsic, it just presents such a fun game to play.”

And the difference between beating Urbana and Westminster? Lawrence didn’t sink to the ground, overcome with emotion, when the Lancers beat the Hawks. And when Linganore edged Urbana, adjectives such as “tremendous,” “fantastic,” and “awesome” were used to describe Russo.

But when Linganore shocked the Owls, there was no one word that could put an appropriate value on Russo’s performance, so Ridgely went with “we’re just so thankful to have her.”

tmewhirter@gazette.net