Anyone who thought No. 3 Centennial would cruise to a regional title after beating South Carroll in the opening round underestimated Linganore.
Last night, the Lancers showed Centennial a tough defensive side that kept the game close until the final six minutes. Not until Jen Coulson added an insurance goal to Michelle Clare's earlier score did the Eagles breathe easily.
With the 2-0 victory over Linganore last night at South Carroll, the Eagles (16-0) earned the Class 3A-4A West regional championship. They move on to face No. 11 Old Mill in a state semifinal Saturday night at Catonsville Community College.
Last night, even the Eagles might have underestimated the Lancers (9-5-1) a bit.
"We didn't come out with the same kind of intensity we did against South Carroll," said senior Shara Boonshaft. "I think we thought after South Carroll it was going to be cake, and it definitely wasn't. We dominated, but we were only up one goal and that meant they were still in the game. Since we didn't get that second goal until the end, it kept the pressure on the whole time."
The Lancers, who edged Howard 1-0 in their semifinal, gave Centennial's defense plenty to handle. Even though Linganore played half of the game with one striker and managed only three shots on goal, they threatened on a handful of fast breaks.
Eagles keeper Rima Sidhu had to make just one save, but her aggressive play upset a couple of prime Lancers opportunities.
Sweeper Tania Riismandel saved another shot, leaping high in front of the net to head away a direct kick from the left corner of the box late in the second half.
"That was really big," said Centennial co-coach Kevin Flynn. "We go 1-1 with 10 minutes left. We've lost any momentum we had and we're in big trouble. We always seem to find a way to get the ball out."
Offensively, Clare scored on a left-footed drive from about 20 yards out in the 17th minute. Although they dominated almost the entire second half, the Eagles could not punch another one home until Lauren Molinaro's shot rebounded off a defender and Coulson nailed it in.
The Eagles now go after their third state title in four years, but losing in last year's state semifinal remains fresh in their minds.
"A lot of big teams have lost already, and that puts the pressure on," said Boonshaft. "But it also means that we're not playing them. But any team that beat them has to be good, too. We definitely can play better than we're playing and that's what we need to do against these teams at states."