In true Howard County girls soccer fashion, another top team in the standings was knocked off in a close match Tuesday.
This time it was the Centennial Eagles, who fell to Reservoir, 2-1 at Blandair Park.
Senior Blair Bonner racked up two assists, Keri Rager and Paola Rosa each scored, while keeper Abby Gillum nearly pitched a shutout for the Gators (7-3).
“I thought we played down to their level in the first ten minutes,” said Bonner of her team’s performance. “But then we really picked it up and started playing our game of soccer.”
The match-up was moved to the turf fields of Blandair after Reservoir’s stadium conditions were unfit for play.
Bonner joined Reservoir coach Josh Sullivan in saying that the change helped the Gators, especially with their fast-paced style of play.
“All in all, I thought we played pretty well for most of the game,” Sullivan added. “I think we had a good game plan coming in. We wanted to take away their strengths.”
Sullivan said he was most impressed with the way his girls used speed to keep the Eagles' defense honest.
Midway through the first half, Bonner took control of a loose ball in Gator territory and booted it away to a fleeting Rager.
Centennial (7-2-1) was pressed up in offensive attack, giving Rager a chance to outrun the defense for a breakaway. Rager then beat Centennial keeper Allie Durkee for the game’s first score.
Sullivan said Bonner’s ability to distribute effectively set the entire scoring sequence into motion.
“She has a great touch, and her ability to send that ball and place it…she’s great at that,” said Reservoir’s coach, who admitted that his squad doesn’t play that type of fast break offense very often. “If we show that a few times, we hope the defense respects it.”
In the second half, Centennial went from thinking it had tied the game at 1-1, to being down by two in less than a minute of action.
It started when a deep Eagles’ shot bounced off the crossbar and ricocheted straight down behind Gillum, who quickly cleared it away.
The Centennial sideline thought the ball had crossed, but the official gave no signal, and play continued.
Gillum punted the ball down the right side of the field, where Centennial was called for a foul, setting Bonner up for a free kick.
Bonner’s pass into the box met Rosa, who put the Gators up 2-0.
“I’m frustrated, but that’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” said Centennial coach Steve Baxter after the game. “Sometimes things don’t bounce your way.”
As the minutes ticked away, the Eagles applied pressure to Reservoir’s lead, and Anna Mitchell delivered on a shot nearly 35 yards out, getting her squad back in contention late in the game.
The Eagles’ last-minute surge would be too little, too late, and the Gators finished victorious.