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Gustafson goals drive Franklin Scoring leader: Super sophomore paces metro area with 14 goals in four games as her No. 10 soccer team climbs the rankings ladder


Sara Gustafson says she doesn't care if she never scores another goal all season, as long as her No. 10 Franklin soccer team keeps winning.

But holding the Indians' striker scoreless won't be easy for any opponent. In four games, Gustafson has tallied 14 goals to lead the metro area. She has scored or assisted on all but five of the unbeaten Indians' 21 goals.

Although only a sophomore, Gustafson has had more experience than many of her teammates. A second-team All-State pick last year, she started playing at 5, has two years of Olympic Development Program experience and plays for the Columbia Soccer Club's Maryland Majestic, the current state champ.

"Last year, it was a lot harder because I was a freshman and they didn't listen to me," said Gustafson. "Now, I think, they really do look for me. I have a really loud voice, but I won't call for it unless I know I can do something with it."

Coach George Wagner said Gustafson has earned the respect of her teammates. "I think when you produce like Sara has produced, the kids will look for you," he said.

Amy Miller, the Indians' senior sweeper and a second-team All-State pick, agreed. "Sara controls the field and she really keeps us in the games," Miler said. "She has great ball-control skills, she works defenders well and she's got a nice shot."

Thirteen of Gustafson's goals came in just three games. She admits the competition wasn't that tough in any of them, but she also came through against one of the area's best defensive units with a goal and an assist in a 2-1 upset two weeks ago of then-No. 3 Centennial, the defending Class 3A-4A champion.

Centennial, now ranked No. 6, took an early lead, but Gustafson tied the game in the second half and assisted Erin Watson on the winner with about 15 minutes to go.

"That win was huge," said Gustafson. "They were state champs, they had beaten us three times and they were ranked third in the metro area, so I don't think it could have been any better."

That victory -- celebrated on Wagner's birthday -- catapulted the Indians out of nowhere to No. 10 in the Baltimore Sun's Top 15 poll.

Still, the players say there is no danger of overconfidence and Wagner says he won't allow it. With No. 7 Dulaney coming up Saturday after tomorrow's game at Sparrows Point, the Indians know the rest of the season will only get tougher.

"Last year, we came out and thought we were the greatest after we beat a whole bunch of teams and then we lost to Dulaney, 9-2," said Gustafson. "We were not very happy about that, and I think everybody realized right then that we couldn't mess around. I don't think anyone's forgotten that."

While Gustafson has grabbed the limelight with superb scoring statistics, the rest of the Indians have played every bit as consistently. They know it will be difficult to stay near the top of the standings in Baltimore County's brutally tough Division I -- especially with Gustafson receiving extra attention from opposing defenses.

The Indians have other scoring threats in wings Watson and Missy Farrell, as well as halfbacks Kate Citroni, Kara Wingate and Heidi Shaneybrook.

Also, the veteran defense of sweeper Miller, stopper Alison Palguta, backs Katie Lee and Kate Landes and keeper Ann Marie Molinaro has allowed just three goals.

The Indians say they welcome the tough competition to come.

"We'd always played weaker teams," said Miller, "and we hadn't really been tested. Then when we got to regionals, like last year, we were knocked out by Centennial. We hadn't really seen competition like that all year. I think this is really preparing us for postseason play."

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