Sharp-shooting Annapolis has offense in high gear Panthers seek to add to goal total of 332 vs. C. M. Wright; Girls lacrosse


Talent can be found all over the field at Annapolis, but there is one area where it simply overflows.

A quick look at the stat sheet provides the answer. Under the category "goals for," there's a number that is rather dazzling, 332. That's 16.6 goals per game for the No. 7 Panthers, who improved to 19-1 with Saturday's 15-6 win over No. 13 Liberty in the Class 3A-4A state semifinals.

And that's precisely what No. 9 C. Milton Wright -- 16-1 after a 17-10 win over Parkville in the other semifinal -- must deal with first and foremost when it meets the Panthers in tonight's state final set for 8 p.m. at UMBC.

"They know where to be, when to be and how to be. And they all have good stick skills and plenty of speed. The big thing with them is they all work very well together," said Severna Park coach Carin Peterson.

Peterson knows from experience.

Her Falcons had one of the best defenses in the entire area this season and they dropped two games to the Panthers -- 9-5 in the regular season and a 10-9 thriller in the Class 3A-4A East region final.

The Panthers indeed have a special blend.

The starting attack features seniors Kelly Dirks (77 goals, 52 assists), Brooke Wagner (37, 59) and freshman Kristy Dirks (48, 12). More production comes from the midfield with junior Christy McNew (45, 15) leading the way.

"If a team concentrates on any one player, someone else will carry the load," said Annapolis coach David Gehrdes. "That's how it's been all season."

C. Milton Wright coach Paul Snyder knows his young Mustangs, who start four sophomores and a freshman, have a tough chore in front of them. In a preseason scrimmage, he said the Panthers beat his team, 23-1, although Gehrdes insists the Mustangs scored more than one goal and are a much stronger team this time of year.

Snyder is still staking the claim as overwhelming underdogs, declaring the matchup is like the "Lilliputians against the gargantuans."

He added: "I really do think they [the Panthers] are older, they're battle-tested. They're in a tough league with a couple of really tough teams. I think we have our work cut out for us."

The Mustangs have also scored their share of goals this season, averaging 14 a game. Senior attack wing Jamie Gerhart leads the metro area with 84 goals and has also dished out 32 helpers. Sophomore Page Heath has 40 goals and 25 assists with junior Rachel Sappington chipping in 34 and 12.

This is the second state final appearance for both teams. Wright lost to Mount Hebron in 1995 in its only appearance. The following year, Annapolis finished off a perfect season at 20-0 with a win over Hebron.

Pub Date: 5/20/98

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