By Craig Clary, firstname.lastname@example.org
10:22 PM EDT, October 24, 2013
Junior Catherine Sweeney scored a pair of goals in the second half as Catonsville’s quest to return to the Class 4A state championship game began with a 2-0 victory over visiting Perry Hall in the Class 4A North Region quarterfinals on a brisk Thursday night.
The top-seeded Comets (12-2), who had a first-round bye, will face second-seeded Dulaney for the third time this season in the regional semifinals on Monday, Oct. 28.
The Comets defeated the Lions, 4-2, during the regular season, but lost in the Baltimore County championship game, 2-0.
The Comets beat the Gators (6-6) for the second time this season, despite missing leading scorer Brooke Stevens, who was out with a mild concussion and sore neck.
Sweeney and junior classmate Emma Clark kept the pressure on the Gators all night as the Comets outshot them 17-6, but the game was scoreless after Perry Hall goalie Sam Schiano made six of her eight saves in the first half.
“We just shut them down early so they didn’t even get the chance to shoot,” Catonsville senior defender Kelly Reymann said.
The Comets best scoring chance in the first half came after they crowded the circle and earned a penalty stroke, but Clark’s flick leaked wide with 14:53 remaining.
Clark had another strong shot moments later on a reverse strike, but Schiano made a pad save.
Catonsville had 12 penalty corners in the first half, while Perry Hall had none, but the Comets couldn’t convert, thanks to strong Gator defense from Stephanie Hensler, Endasia Mitchell, Katelynn Larossa and Hannah Tornatore.
Perry Hall’s Logan Oh started the second half by dribblling from midfield to the Comet goal, but the Comet defense of Kelly Reymann, Kelly Brady and Jules Keagle held strong.
“Logan (Oh) is a very good player and you have to shut her down pretty much because she can shoot,” Catonsville coach Carrie McKenna-Wilson said.
Oh had a shot on goal early in the second half, but the Comets responded with a strong rush that led to a pair of shots from Sweeney and Clark and eventual penalty stroke which Sweeney converted with 28:04 left.
“I haven’t taken one in a game yet, but it was really nerve-wracking,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t think it went in at first, but then I saw it roll in.”
Thanks to outstanding midfield play from senior Meghan Sadler, sophomore Bri Spinnato and freshmen Ashley Bates and Britt Stevens, the Comets continued to penetrate the zone.
Clark and Sweeney were constantly feeding off each other in the absence of Stevens.
“We knew we had to talk and find each other,” Sweeney said. “Me and Emma have been playing since we were little and we always know where each other is on the field, and we just had to step up with Brooke not there.”
But, with the Comets leading 1-0, a botched corner led to a long Perry Hall drive from Cassidy Coates to streaking Kayla Shields who was way ahead of the pack.
Goalie Vanessa Tracey came way out to try and cut off the angle, but Shields skirted by her and readied a shot, when suddenly Brady came in from behind and red-directed the ball out of bounds.
“That was amazing,” McKennna-Wilson said. “She is a beast and that was a great come to the ball move.”
Spinnato took over in the midfield after the play by Brady with a pair of blocks and interception.
That led to a shot on goal by Clark and a free hit from Reymann that produced Sweeney's second goal after Reymann's drive hit the goalie.
“The goalie came out and it got stuck in her pad and I pulled back and got a lucky lift,” said Sweeney, of the score with 12:37 remaining.
Reymann knew it was time for someone else to make a play without Stevens on the forward line.
“It (not having Stevens) made us a little unpredictable because they didn’t know who was going to be our dominant scorer,” she said. “All our offense stepped up and over-compensated for that loss so it didn’t make a difference in our play.”
McKenna-Wilson, the first-year head coach, agreed.
“We are a true team and Brooke is an amazing player and she has brought it, but we have a lot of talent on our team,” she said.