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Staff Photos by Reid SilvermanCourtney Williams, left, Anne Marie Popgoshev, Johanna Rambo and Jessica Cooke are at a loss for words as they celebrate winning the 4A state title.
Locked in a scoreless tie with Quince Orchard (15-4) at UMBC with a 1 minute 38 seconds remaining in regulation, all it took was a high-arching shot by Gehrig, which snuck between the outstretched arms of Cougars goalie Jenna Cheek and the crossbar, to seal the win for the Raiders, 1-0, and avoid prolonging the match.
‘‘I was just hoping someone would get a goal before overtime because the last thing you want to do is go into two overtime periods,” Henderson said. ‘‘The girls are tired by then and you just don’t want to see it. It was a beautiful shot.”
Said senior defender Lina Cords about Gehrig’s game winner: ‘‘When she took the shot, it was a great shot and when we saw it go past the keeper’s fingertips ... we were just so happy and excited. It was just a great feeling when we saw it go in the net.”
Not everyone was nervous watching Gehrig’s shot, as senior midfielder Evan Feldman said she knew it was going in the second she saw who took the shot.
‘‘I had total faith in Emily,” Feldman said. ‘‘She has an awesome cross and awesome accuracy and I knew that ball was going in. When she was outside and no one on her, I knew that was going in. She had that shot.”
Feldman said the Raiders’ key to victory was because of the fact the team continued to work hard until the end of the game.
‘‘We worked from the first minute to the last minute, as we should,” Feldman said. ‘‘We knew coming into this Quince Orchard was the same level of skill we had so we knew it was going to come down to who had the most heart.”
Another key to Leonardtown’s victory was its stifling defense, which recorded its 15th shutout with the win and only allowed six goals all year.
‘‘At practice, we always work on our defense because we know that with [only three defenders] we can always get beat down the flanks so we’re always working,” said Cords.
Cords, who was named first-team All-State and has committed to play soccer for Boston University, said there was no better way to end her high school career.
‘‘It’s been a great year, it’s what any senior would ask for,” Cords said. ‘‘To go all the way to states and just to win it it’s the best way to end my senior year. And I’m so happy that it happened.”
Added Feldman: ‘‘I’m so happy that I’m a senior leaving with a state title. We knew that we could go all the way at states. We knew we had the skill, the motivation and the heart and we proved it and we went all the way.”
The only blemish on Leonardtown’s record this year was an Oct. 20 loss to county-rival Chopticon. The loss cost Leonardtown (17-1-1) its shot at the SMAC title, but provided all the motivation the team needed to finish out the season strong.
‘‘A state championship was definitely something that we wanted to achieve this year because SMAC was a huge letdown,” Gehrig said. ‘‘A lot of people gave us a hard time about that loss because we even [finished] higher than them in SMAC so losing to them pumped us up even more.”
Henderson, who was also coach of the team when it won its first state title in 1998, said she was proud of how the girls worked all season and that it took a solid team all around to secure the title.
‘‘The girls did an excellent job in the game tonight,” Henderson said. ‘‘Defensively we were so solid, the defense really denied them to get any opportunities on goal. Our midfielders worked hard pressuring the ball and obviously the strikers, one of them came through in the end to get the goal. They deserve it. They worked very hard this season, they’ve provided great leadership for us and they’ve earned it.”
Henderson said she was also grateful that she had the chance to win another title.
‘‘You have to wonder if this is a once in a lifetime opportunity or a once in a lifetime happening so I’m very excited to be able to experience this twice,” Henderson said.
With only five seniors on this year’s squad – Cords, Feldman, Kassie Martin, Lara Lewellyn and Lauren Young – Leonardtown could have a substantial shot at defending its title in 2007.
E-mail Jim Higgins at email@example.com.