The Catonsville girls soccer team, which played in last year’s devastating regional championship game loss, made sure that penalty kicks did not decide the outcome of the Class 4A North Region championship game Tuesday nght.
The host Comets (16-1) scored early and often and bolted to a 3-0 lead at halftime on the way to a 4-0 victory over the same Sherwood squad that eliminated them on penalty kicks.
It was the 15th straight triumph for the Comets and earned them a berth in the Class 4A state semifinals against Eleanor Roosevelt at Richard Montgomery High on Saturday, Nov. 9.
“Not many teams get a re-do to play the team they lost to last year, so we knew we lost on penalty kicks and that is the worst way to lose a game -- and we just came out together with a lot of heart,” said junior Renee Gast, who scored two of the four goals.
Junior Jenn Nonn scored her 21th goal of the season and 67th of her career just over four minutes into the game and junior Anna Higdon curled in a corner kick for the final goal in the second half.
“Before the game, we could feel it and we played together really well today,” Gast said. “We found feet and we came out quick.”
Gast’s first cross found the head of Deanna Eveland, who redirected it toward Nonn for the 1-0 lead.
Sherwood almost had a chance to tie it with 25:22 left after speedy junior Lauren Woods raced ahead of the pack into the clear. But Lauren Vogelpohl cut off her angle and forced the ball out of bounds.
“I know what I have to do in the back so I try 100 percent to get it done,” Vogelpohl said. “No one wanted a repeat of last year because that was devastating for everyone. The girls knew from last year we had to give 100 percent so we could win as a team, and we got it done.”
The Comets made it 2-0 on a corner kick by Higdon when Gast popped out of a group in front of the keeper and headed it home with 7:15 left in the half.
“The pack just explodes, so she (Higdon) just needs to put it in there somewhere so somebody can run on to it,” Catonsville coach James Fitzpatrick said.
“Anna is amazing at corner kicks,” Gast said. “She puts it right on our heads and we can trust her to put it in there, and we are going to get on it.”
Sherwood responded with its best chances of the night, but a shot by Kristen Lauda was saved by goalie Lauren McDonald (6 saves) and the rebound shot by Ashley Webb was saved again by the sprawling keeper.
With 5:33 left, leading scorer Nonn left and didn’t return because of a hip injury, but that didn’t stop the Comet attack from continuing to capitalize.
With 4:41 left in the half, Gast curled in a shot from 33 yards out for 3-0 lead.
“Fitz always says to shoot when you get the ball and it was open so why not try for it,” Gast said.
Coach Fitzpatrick agreed.
“Shoot when you get a chance,” he said. “No such thing as a bad shot.”
That includes Higdon, who curled in her third goal off a corner kick this season in the second half. She also has 10 assists.
Her ball drifted over the line off a Sherwood defender as Ali Dingle and Deanna Eveland shielded the goalie’s view.
“Their corner kicks were fabulous,” said Sherwood coach Danielle Rosanova, whose squad had a goals-against average of 0.66 and didn't give up more than two goals until Tuesday night. “Those were hard to defend and they put away the opportunities they got.”
Gast moved to stopper for the second half and helped aid the excellent defensive effort that also included Higdon, Carly Toulan, Katie Viets and Vogelpohl.
“I’ll play wherever Fitz wants me to play,” said Gast, who started at striker. “I played stopper last year and wing freshmen year, so I’ve played everywhere. So wherever he wants me I’m happy to play.”
The Comets also have depth.
Dingle, Lenna Meyer, Kelcey Scott and Eveland controlled the midfield, and Catonsville got strong efforts off the bench from Kayla Wood and Lila Nazarian.
“I’ve had very good teams, but this team doesn’t have any holes,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whoever we put out on the pitch can do the job.”
When the game ended, Nonn limped over and doused the coach with a Gatorade jug of water.
“It’s the best we’ve played in the region so far,” said a soaked and smiling Fitzpatrick.