It may have been the first game of the season for the girls soccer teams from Catonsville and Manchester Valley, but the opening round match at the 14th annual Catonsville Invitational Tournament Friday night was played with the intensity of postseason.
Host Catonsville earned a 3-2 decision when junior Jenn Nonn scored her second goal of the game to break a 2-2 deadlock with 30:47 left in the second half.
The tough-angled tally came after Nonn received a pass from the wing by Lauren McDonald who had collected an excellent lead pass by Anna Higdon.
“Jenn is a goal scorer,” said Catonsville coach James Fitzpatrick, of the Comets’ leading scorer last season.
That season ended with a heart-breaking loss for the 14-2 Comets to Sherwood on penalty kicks in the Class 4A North Region championship game.
Manchester Valley’s 14-3-2 season ended with its second straight Class 1A state championship and the visiting Mavericks from Carroll County came out like champions in the first 20 minutes.
Senior defender Sarah Cullison stopped a couple of Comet fast breaks and Jamie Rickabaugh got behind the defense and gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead with 22:35 left in the first half.
With under six minutes left in the half, Catonsville goalie Natalie Croom gobbled up a through pass by Alex Morris before Rickabaugh could get a touch deep in the box and the Comet attack stepped up the intensity.
With under four minutes left in the half, a free kick from Ali Dingle to Nonn was headed into the top right corner to tie the game at 1-1.
Less than three minutes later, Renee Gast redirected Higdon’s corner kick into the net and suddenly the Comets led 2-1.
“We spent about an hour Wednesday going over set pieces because we had noticed in our scrimmages it was a bit of a weak point, so we worked on attacking and defending set pieces.”
“We certainly know where our Achilles heel (set pieces) is right now and we will have to work on it,” Manchester Valley coach Joe Miller said.
The Mavericks didn’t let the halftime deficit deflate them because they came out and scored the tying goal 4:10 into the second half on a shot by Grace Crawford off Lizzie Colvin’s assist.
“I said, ‘Get the goal in the second half to tie the game and the game changes’ and we came right back and scored,” Miller said. “We couldn’t ask for anything better and everybody was excited — and then they scored another goal and we just got tired.”
Neither team stopped attacking after Nonn scored the go-ahead goal and the intensity heated up.
“It was intense out there and I told the girls if we play that way the rest of the season we’ll do fine,” Miller said. “They played hard.”
Dingle created several scoring chances for Catonsville from the midfield and had a shot on goal saved by goalie Taylor Carhart.
Dingle, Kelsey Scott and Lila Nazarian won three consecutive 50-50 balls as the momentum continued to ride with the Comets until the Mavericks earned a dangerous free kick on the wing 15 yards out.
But Megan Blair’s solid strike into the box was cleanly headed away by Dingle and the Comet lead held up.
With 14:20 left, Gast almost netted the fourth goa,l but it was rejected by Carhart. Seconds later, Nonn had a shot from the six that trickled wide.
Gast, who played wing midfielder as a freshman and stopper as a sophomore before moving to striker this season, also had a shot off the post with under 11 minutes remaining.
Scoring chances that Fitzpatrick is glad to see from both of his strikers.
“We know Jenn has a striker’s mentality and Renee has a good striker’s mentality and they don’t mind missing and that’s really what you’ve got to have because you know you are going to have another chance.”
Manchester’s best scoring chances in the final four minutes came on long free kicks by Dani Rill and Cullison, but they were corralled by Croom and the Comets held on for the victory.
“It is a good win,” Fitzpatrick said.
Miller was just glad to put his squad up against quality competition.
“We come down here to play on turf because we don’t get to play on turf, except for here and in the state playoffs, so we try to get some experience, but we knew Catonsville is always a good team,” he said. “You just want to play to where you can raise your level.”
Catonsville boys earn season-opening victory
Catonsville senior striker Michael Heaney scored the only goal of the game in the first half as the Comet boys opened up the 14th annual Catonsville Invitational Tournament with a 1-0 victory over Manchester Valley.
Goalie A.J. Beck made two fines saves to preserve the victory for the Comets, who got strong midfield and defensive play from Daniel Kim, Will Johnson, Sam Khan, Liam Llorin Jordan Llorin and Shay Gregory.
Manchester Valley’s best scoring chance came with 5:50 left on a shot by Mark Shuster that was saved in the top corner by Beck.
Isiah Dorsey also had a strong scoring chance in the waning moments and Maverick goalie Kyle Johnson made some fine saves to keep the game close.
“I thought we played well,” Catonsville coach Vic Vega said. “I’m pleased because it’s going to be a challenging year because we are so young.”
Catonsville had to replace 14 players from last year’s squad that lost in the Baltimore County championship game to Perry Hall a year after they won the county title in 2011.
Last year’s Comets finished 12-1-2, but lost in the regional finals to Westminster.