It was late July when Hereford junior forward Layne Litsinger and six friends -- some of them field hockey teammates, including starting goalie Jessie Lynch -- were involved in an accident on an all-terrain vehicle.
Litsinger, who was expecting to return to the Bulls as a starter and help the team try to advance beyond the 3A North regional tournament where they had stumbled each of the past two years, suddenly found herself seriously injured and sidelined.
It was a setback, but not, as it turns out, the end of her season.
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Litsinger is set to play in tonight's Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 3A field hockey semifinals at Broadneck.
Of the seven, she was the most seriously injured, trapped under the vehicle when it rolled over. She’ll tell you she broke seven bones -- her right wrist, both collarbones, two ribs, her scapula “and something at the top of my spine.”
But she won’t tell you much more about it.
“I don’t like to talk about it,” she said. “It was a bad time.”
And, yes, she said, “It was very scary.”
While she was healing, she spent most of the fall sitting on a folding chair under an umbrella, keeping the sun from a number of other serious gashes, showing support for her team in any little way she could.
On tryout day, she slowly walked the mile everyone else was required to run, just to show how much she wanted to be on the team.
Finally, on Oct. 18 she was cleared to run.The following weekend she started practicing and the next week, thanks to Hurricane Sandy pushing the date for the team’s regional semifinal back to Nov. 1, she was able to start and play with substitution breaks in the team’s 6-0 victory over Bel Air. Litsinger scored twice in the win.
She followed that game with another outstanding effort, producing Hereford’s two goals in a 2-1 regional final victory over then-No. 12 C. Milton Wright to send the Bulls into Wednesday’s Class 3A semifinal at Broadneck (7 p.m.) against Linganore (13-2).
Linganore, the No. 2 seed in the 3A West, upset No. 1 seed Westminster, 1-0, in two overtimes to write a bit of its own surprising story.
But few on either team will feel more grateful being on the field in tonight’s game than Litsinger.
“I was so ready to get back,” she said. “I had been going to the gym, working with a trainer to keep my legs strong. It’s really exciting for me to be back and for the team to get this far. We’re really going for it all this year.”
Hereford coach Tammy Mundie, whose team completed its second undefeated regular season and is now 16-0, called Litsinger’s recovery and output on the field "awesome."
“It was only two weeks ago that she was released to do non-contact drills,” Mundie said. “And now she has four goals.”
Litsinger, who is a big Ravens fan, can see the comparison of her story to that of Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. Suggs did the incredible, as well, coming back in record time from a partially torn Achilles tendon to be a force in his first game back.
“He came back and came back strong,” Litsinger said. “My first game, I was pretty surprised to be on the field and then I scored.”
The major difference in the stories is size. Suggs is a hard-to-miss 6 feet 3, 260 pounds, while Litsinger is what Mundie calls “itty-bitty” at 5 feet, 100 pounds.
“I’m fast and I am sneaky,” Litsinger said. “I am small and you don’t see me and then, all of a sudden, I’m there.”
She’s here now, and Mundie said her comeback coupled with the late-season return of forward Lila Radebaugh (early season concussion), and midfielder-defender Christiana Janecek (torn ACL) have made the team stronger by increasing its depth.
Mary Claire Abbott is still the team’s leading goal scorer (13) and assist maker (23), but major contributions are coming from others. Senior Shannon Martello has 10 goals and four assists, and Abbott’s twin sister, Caitlin, the team’s deep defender, has contributed five goals and five assists, mainly on corner chances.
“This team has more depth, is very consistent and has a lot more confidence than last year,” Mundie said. “And, they have their own sense of urgency. They play very well together and they’re very, very fast.”
A package that has them in position to reach the state championship game.
“I think we have a pretty good chance,” Litsinger said. “We have a strong defense, a great goalie and our offense really works well together. We’re ready to go.”