As Millie Smith tried to slow her heartbeat and clear her mind, preparing to take what would be the game-winning penalty kick in overtime Thursday night, the chatter around her wasn’t exactly helping.
“My teammates on Linganore from club, they all started screaming [at their goalkeeper]. They were like ‘To your left. To your left.’,” said Smith, a junior midfielder for the Middletown girls soccer team. “I was like, ‘That’s my side.’”
The chatter continued and Smith heard another Linganore player and former club teammate say, “Yeah. But, if she goes the other way, she might choke and miss.”
Eventually, Smith knew she had to just block out all of the surrounding noise to the best of her ability and just trust her gut instinct.
“Just put it on frame and it’s good,” she thought.
Sticking with her preferred side, Smith directed her free kick into the lower right portion of the net on the PK with 2:39 remaining in overtime, lifting Middletown to another dramatic 1-0 victory at Linganore.
Last season, during a steady rain in the middle of October, Jade Catlin pounced on a loose ball in the goal box and scored just as time was about to expire in double overtime to break a scoreless tie and propel Middletown past the Lancers in barely under 100 minutes.
This most recent meeting required almost 88 minutes to resolve, as Linganore (2-2) was whistled for pulling Catlin down in the goal box, setting up the penalty kick for Smith.
“One of my earlier goals this season came on a PK. But, in overtime, there is a lot more pressure,” she said. “I was just thinking, ‘Don’t miss this one.’”
In practice, during which there isn’t really any pressure to make or miss the PKs, Smith’s attempts typically splash into the net comfortably. There is a lot of margin for error.
However, with the pressure on at Linganore, her PK drifted to the right more than usual and made first contact with the side, not the back, of the net.
“Thank God,” Smith thought upon seeing the ball going in. “We didn’t have to play another 10 minutes. My legs were tired.”
In its first real test of the season, Middletown (4-1) had passed. The Knights previously beat Smithsburg, Tuscarora and Frederick and had lost to state-power Broadneck in their kickoff tournament.
“I said at halftime this is a classic Middletown-Linganore game. It’s a battle,” Knights coach Heather Kline said.
The Lancers couldn’t catch a break in the first half, as Taylor Ferguson’s free kick struck the crossbar.
Then, in the second half, Mandy Hill’s terrific bicycle kick sailed just over the crossbar.
With just over two minutes to play, Linganore put good pressure on the Middletown goal stemming from a corner kick, but couldn’t quite find the finishing touch.
Kline remarked that fans usually get their money’s worth when Middletown and Linganore play in girls soccer.
“You are happy you are playing these [close] games every night because, hopefully, they are getting you ready for the [playoffs],” she said.