Stopper Clawson makes Lions go


It was halftime of Monday's game against visiting Linganore. While most of the other Liberty players were sitting on the bench, Michelle Clawson was playfully heading a soccer ball back and forth with teammate Nicki Jones.

It was obvious the junior co-captain, nicknamed "Mikey," couldn't get enough of the game she began playing in the third grade when she lived in Pittsburgh.

Before and after intermission, Clawson -- at stopper back -- turned back a potential Linganore goal, sent a number of long through balls to scorer Shanna Ziegenfuss, created other dangerous scoring chances with her long throws and generally patroled the middle of the field for all 80 minutes.

The Lions, ranked 11th in the metro area, came away with a 2-0 win -- their eighth straight -- to finish 10-2 for the regular season.

The road to a possible third straight state playoff appearance begins this week with the region playoffs. Expectations are high.

"Definitely state semis -- at least. That's what we're shooting for right now," Clawson said.

Clawson loves to win. The Lions started out slow at 2-2 before putting their string of wins together.

The biggest came in the middle of the streak when they knocked off neighborhood rival South Carroll, which came into the game with a perfect record and earlier had beaten the Lions, 4-0.

Clawson scored the game's only goal in the closing minutes -- a 30-yard birthday present for her father. It was without question the biggest goal of her career, but she shrugged off the accomplishment.

"The South Carroll game was great. It wasn't really the goal, though, it was more just the win," she said.

Nothing Clawson does surprises Liberty's first-year coach, Chuck Martin, least of all the goal against South Carroll.

"She called it," he said. "That game was typical, her style. She carries herself like a winner, walks tall."

Clawson, who also plays basketball and lacrosse, can play just about anywhere on the soccer field. She was a first-team All-County selection her sophomore year playing sweeper before moving up to stopper early this season.

"She's really settled in and been a key for us at stopper," Martin said. "Her leadership skills are excellent. She directs others so well and has great ball skills.

"She's equally skilled both left and right, heads balls offensively and defensively in front of the net and has the long throw-ins -- she's a cornerstone for us."

Her two goals and four assists are somewhat rare for a defender, but scoring is nothing new to Clawson. In Pittsburgh, she began in a small, co-ed neighborhood league, playing up front and some in goal.

She confesses she loves playing offense, but says defense is OK, too. "Wherever coach Martin puts me is fine," she said.

As for the nickname, commonly heard from the Liberty bleachers, it originated with her parents back in grade school.

"In fifth grade, a neighbor came over one day and heard it and took it to school the next day. It's stuck ever since," Clawson said.

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