Catonsville forward Emma Clark gave her teammates a gift on her own birthday, when she scored a goal with 1:32 left in regulation, giving the host Comets a 2-1 victory over Perry Hall in the Class 4A North Region semifinals.
The Halloween evening win advanced the top-seeded Comets to the regional finals where they defeated second-seeded Dulaney, 2-1, on Thursday at Catonsville High.
Clark's goal that that got past Perry Hall goalie Mackenzie Pitillo wasn't witnessed by Catonsville Coach Lindsey Gullborg, but that didn’t matter.
“A goal is a goal,” Gullborg said. “I couldn’t really see it. It was a melee, but one can only hope the right stick got on it. Chalk it up to Emma’s birthday goal.”
“We were all trying to get a shot and I just jabbed it under the goalie,” Clark said.
The goal was set up by an offensive push that started with a 40-yard drive from Maggie Whelley to Brooke Stevens, after a Gator time out with three minutes left.
Stevens fed Clark and her first shot was repelled, but she took advantage of her second opportunity.
Whelley and Comet defender Kelly Reymann provided instant offense with several stops and drives, and it was also Whelley’s drive to Stevens that led to a Comet penalty corner preceding Catonsville’s first goal.
“Without our defense, we don’t have an offense,” Gullborg said.
On the goal off the penalty corner, Stevens inserted the pass to Rachel Saks, who assisted Maddie Hunt for a drive from the top of the circle with 21:45 left in the second half.
“It was a direct hit and sometimes the direct hit works the best,” Gullborg said.
Perry Hall scored its only goal on a penalty stroke score from Cassidy Coates with 16:24 left in second half.
Coates, Logan Oh and Mikie Olson made several spirited runs from the midfield, but they had trouble getting close to the cage.
Catonsville dominated in shots (17-3) and penalty corners taken (15-1), but the Gator defense of Stephanie Hensler, Rachel Norton and goalie Pitillo (9 saves) hung tough.
“I’m very proud of my goalie,” Perry Hall coach Kristen Arseneau said. “This was her first game in goal and she stepped up. She usually plays forward.”
Pitillo was filling in for sophomore goalie Sam Shiano, who was out with a thigh contusion.
Catonsville also got solid offensive play on attack from Kendall Law, Catherine Sweeney and Grace Campbell and defensive contributions from Jules Keagle and goalie Vanessa Tracy.
In the regional championship game win over Dulaney, Catonsville (12-3) got a pair of goals from Stevens.
The Comets move onto the state semifinals against Walter Johnson (13-1) on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at Franklin High.