Catonsville’s 4-1 girls soccer triumph over Hereford on Tuesday night may have been the Comets' third game in four days, but that didn’t stop their quest to clinch the Division II title with a 5-0 league record.
The host Comets’ 10th straight victory also clinched a berth in the Baltimore County championship game on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7:30.
They will most likely face Sparrows Point, which leads Division I by a half game with one game remaining.
Catonsville scored its first three goals on set pieces against Hereford. The first came off a corner from Anna Higdon to Jenn Nonn, who headed it home with 25:17 left in the first half.
“They were all so tight and then right when the ball goes up, it’s just like space and I just jumped up,” said Nonn, whose tally came seven minutes after Hereford had nearly taken the early lead after a corner kick by Catie Denz.
But Melissa Meehling’s header destined for the back of the net was saved by the quick reflexes of Lauren McDonald.
“She did make a great save,” Catonsville coach James Fitzpatrick said. “I think that deflated Hereford a little bit, because when you are so sure you’ve got a goal and it doesn’t go in because the keeper makes a great save, you start questioning.”
McDonald, a starting midfielder, was playing in her fifth straight game in goal after taking over for Natalie Croom, who suffered a concussion in a 4-0 win over Parkville.
The Comets second goal in the first half came off another assist by Higdon, after a free kick from the left corner.
The cross deflected off the hand of Hereford keeper Sam Hooker to Catonsville’s Lenna Meyer, who buried it from the far post.
“I just look where I want to place it and try to kick it as well as I can,” said Higdon, a senior, who has been taking most of the free kicks since her sophomore season.
Higdon was one of five seniors, along with Caroline Beyer, Katie Viets, Carly Toulan and Deanna Eveland, celebrating senior night on the home turf.
Trailing 2-0 at halftime, Hereford came out with increased intensity in the second half.
Less than three minutes into the half, senior Sarah Ashwood fed Denz with a perfect through ball and she scored to cut the Comets lead in half.
Marissa Inglisa had a dangerous cross and Ashwood and Denz each had shots, the second which was repelled by Catonsville sweeper Lauren Vogelpohl.
“We definitely picked it up in the second half and we got the goal and we had some momentum and we were moving forward, but then, we just lost focus I guess,” Ashwood said.
Higdon, an outside back on defense, sensed the added pressure from the Bulls.
“I give them a lot of credit,” she said. “For the first 15 minutes of the second half they really gave it to us. I was getting a little scared. They were possessing really well.”
“All due credit to Hereford,” he said. “I think Hereford is an excellent team and they have some top quality players. Of the competition we’ve seen, I would put them right up there with anybody.”
In the first half, the Comets were winning the 50/50 balls and midfielders Allison Dingle, Kelsey Scott and Meyer were creating opportunities for strikers Nonn and Renee Gast.
But, in the second half, it wasn’t until Higdon set up a third goal on a set piece that turned the tide back to the Comets.
Her free kick from 40 yards out rattled off a defender and Nonn found freshman Kayla Wood for her second goal of the season.
“It hit a player and then it came right to me and I just kicked it to Kayla, but it wasn’t really planned, but it worked out well,” Nonn said. “I feel like we have gotten a lot better at scoring set pieces.”
Meanwhile, Hereford coach Brad Duvall knows what his 7-4 squad needs to improve as they get ready for the regional playoffs.
“We don’t have a lot of composure on set pieces and we’ll work on that and we’ll get better,” Duvall said.
The Comets only goal during the flow of play came on a long shot by Dingle with just over eight minutes remaining.
Catonsville concludes the regular season with a non-league game against North County at home, Friday, Oct. 18 at 5 p.m.
Fitzpatrick likes the way his squad has meshed.
“We start 11 quality players, which is very rare for a high school team, and we have a quality bench, also rare for a high school team,” Fitzpatrick said. “They are all athletes and they are all players. They do all get along.”
Hereford’s boys soccer team clinched a berth in the Baltimore County championship game with a 1-0 decision over Catonsville at Hereford on Tuesday night.
The Bulls finished 6-0 in Division II while the Comets dropped to 4-1-1 with the loss.
Senior John DeGraw scored the only goal off an assist from classmate AJ Endres and senior goalie Danny Staab notched the shutout for the Bulls (7-2-2).
Hereford will play Perry Hall for the Baltimore County title on Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Franklin High.