South River forward Kacie Longo was in the midst of a playoff run in which she scored 10 goals to lead the Seahawks to the Class 4A state championship game last year.
And when she got behind the defense of defending champion Bethesda-Chevy Chase early in the title game, another goal appeared to be on the way. But Longo uncharacteristically hurried the shot — the nerves of playing for the state championship, perhaps, getting in the way — and the goalkeeper made an easy save.
It’s the natural goal scorers who can shrug off failures, remain positive and wait for the next opportunity.
Trailing, 1-0, with seven minutes to play, Longo — one of those type of players — pounced on a loose ball in front of the net and scored the tying goal. The Seahawks went on to capture the championship over the Barons in penalty kicks.
“After I missed that 1-on-1 with the goalie, I knew that I really, really needed to prove to myself that I could do it,” said Longo, who finished with 29 goals and six assists to earn All-Metro Player of the Year honors last season. “I just thought to myself, we’re here for a reason, it’s happened before and I’ve recovered before, so I just tried to stay positive and not get down on myself. It wasn’t a pretty goal, more like determination. It gave the team hope and relief for me. From there, we just had that meant-to-be feeling.”
Longo, a senior, is one of several dangerous forwards in the Baltimore area who will provide fits for opposing defenses in a season expected to be filled with goals.
McDonogh sophomore Bridgette Andrzejewski (15 goals), Arundel senior Clarissa Kirsch-Downs (19 goals), Catonsville junior Jennifer Nonn (24 goals) and River Hill senior Sheridan Street (22 goals) also return after making the All-Metro first team in 2012.
Counting Longo, that’s 109 goals scored last season by five standouts who are primed to do more damage this year.
“There’s just some players that know how to find the goal, whether it’s the first minute or 78th. They have that instinct that you can’t teach,” River Hill coach Brian Song said. “They anticipate, read the game well and the great strikers are always at the right spot at the right time.”
Most natural goal scorers will tell you that good communication with teammates is a big factor in their success, along with elusive speed and quickness, anticipation and the ability to score with both feet.
But first comes persistence and an uncanny knack for finding chances.
“My thing is, I don’t want to think about it too much because it will get in my head,” Andrzejewski said. “So it starts with my teammates getting me a nice through ball or a chip over the defense, and then I try to keep my head down, focus on the goal and pick a corner.”
The top goal scorers at every level fail more times than they succeed. So how do they cope when a valuable opportunity doesn’t go well?
“It can be really disappointing when you have a breakaway or any quality shot that you miss or kick right to the keeper,” Nonn said. “It’s frustrating, and I sometimes get down on myself. But you can’t stay down for long because you have to keep your head up to be ready for the next chance.”
For Longo, whose “next chance” came in the closing minutes with a state title on the line, it turned out to be the biggest goal of her career and one she looks back on as motivation to keep scoring more.
“I think about it all the time,” she said. “Especially in the summer, when I’m training and it’s hot, and I’m wondering why I’m out there. I just think about wanting to have another year like last year.”