GLENELG — Thrown into the fire with a matchup against defending 4A state champion South River in its season opener, Glenelg took the greater part of the first half to settle in Tuesday afternoon.
But once the Gladiators hit their stride, scoring twice off corners in the final six minutes before halftime, they were able to maintain that momentum the rest of the way en route to a 3-1 victory over the visiting Seahawks.
“I don’t know if it was nervousness or first game jitters, but we definitely came out slow. We weren’t talking, we were clumping and seemed a little panicked, and South River is a strong team so they were able to take advantage of that by controlling the possession,” Glenelg coach Nikki Trunzo said. “As the half went on, though, we made a couple of switches and I thought some girls off the bench really stepped up. You could see once we got one [goal], the feel of the game changed.”
Senior Paige Reese accounted for both of the first-half goals for the Gladiators, firing a pair of shots from the top of the circle past South River goalie Kaitlyn Wallace (seven saves) off corners.
The first goal, with 5:41 left in the opening half, came off a feed from Gaby Garofolo. The second score was exactly three minutes later and was set up by Jenny Giampalmo’s pass from the end line.
“When we do get corners, we try to do a straight shot and then tip it in. If that doesn’t always work, we try to tip it around the goalie because we’ve been hitting it a lot toward the goalie during our scrimmages,” Reese said.
While Glenelg (1-0) capitalized on its limited first-half chances, South River (2-1) found itself on the other end of the spectrum. The Seahawks generated five shots during the first 20 minutes of the game, forcing Glenelg freshman goalie Rachel Barker to make three saves during that stretch.
But with nothing to show for winning the possession battle, South River opened the door for the Gladiators to slowly push forward.
“Every stop that they got, every save that they made, was just a little confidence builder for them. And, for us, being as offensive as we were, not scoring conversely brings you down a little bit,” South River coach Megan Atkinson said. “It’s a fine line to play with, but I think it definitely hurt us not being able to capitalize on some of those chances.”
Down 2-0 at the break, South River did regroup to begin pressuring again early in the second half. This time, the team was reward.
Jacqueline Venable-Croft was able to lift one past Barker (six saves) off a scramble in front to cut the team’s deficit to 2-1 with 19:49 remaining.
“Getting that first goal was really important, because we had talked about at halftime that this wasn’t a game — based on how the first half went — that we should have been trailing 2-0,” Atkinson said. “We talked about coming out and pushing hard right from the beginning at the half and I was pleased with our response. I just wish we had been able to keep that intensity the whole second half.”
Just when it seemed South River was poised to steal control, Glenelg came up with an immediate answer. Less than a minute after the Seahawks’ goal, the Gladiators came extended their lead back to two thanks to a score by Tess Muneses off a feed from Kathryn Hoffman.
“[Them scoring] really showed us that we needed to pick it up again because they were starting to get the same momentum as us,” Reese said. “And I definitely think we showed a lot by answering the way we did, scoring right afterward. We kind of stopped their run right as it started.”
South River had a couple chances to potentially get back in the game late, but Glenelg’s defense held strong. The Gladiators excelled on clears all afternoon, particularly buckling down any time the Seahawks made their way into the circle.
Trunzo said the team’s preparation during the preseason really went a long way to getting her girls ready to hit the ground running.
“They’ve worked really hard in practice … our practices are tough with conditioning and the drills. So it’s awesome for them to start with a result like this because they’ve put the hard work in,” Trunzo said. “That was a tough one, though, because South River is a really good team.”
Glenelg 3, South River 1
Goals: G – Reese 2, Muneses; SR – Venable-Croft.
Assists: G – Garofolo, Giampalmo, Hoffman.
Saves: G – Barker 6; SR – Wallace 7.
Half: Glenelg, 2-0.