Atholton senior Katie Cardea, who played last year as an outside halfback, has spent much of her high school career serving as the player setting things up.
On Tuesday against undefeated Wilde Lake, however, Cardea got a chance to be the finisher and didn’t waste it.
In the final minutes of the first overtime of a scoreless road game against the Wildecats, Cardea ran onto a rebound from a hard shot from teammate Adrienne Vaughn and finished into the top corner of the net for the deciding score in a 1-0 victory.
“It was just an amazing moment, both for me and for the team, because we had played so hard and really needed this win,” Cardea said. “Being able to volley that ball in and then having the team rushing over to celebrate, it was just a great feeling. The adrenaline burst up and I felt like I was going to cry.
“It was one of the best moments for sure throughout my career at Atholton.”
Cardea’s deciding goal came at the end of a game where both teams had chances, but —through the first 87 minutes of play — neither squad had been able to break through. Atholton goalie Bryce Bathras made nine saves to keep Wilde Lake off the scoreboard, while Wilde Lake goalie Jenna Hutchison had stopped each of the first seven Raiders’ shots on net.
But it was the eighth shot, following an initial save by Hutchison, that proved to be the difference maker.
After losing to Mt. Hebron during the second week of September, it was a decision that Atholton (5-1, 6-1) needed in order to keep alive its aspirations of defending its county championship title this fall.
“We knew today was going to be a battle and really it was going to come down to who could take advantage of one of their limited scoring opportunities,” Atholton coach Stephanie Stoutenborough said. “We started slow, we missed some scoring chances and so did they, but those last 10 minutes or so of regulation and into overtime I thought we built some momentum. I think you saw the heart of the girls at the end there, doing what they needed to do in order to get a result.”
On the other side, Wilde Lake (4-1, 7-1) suffered its first loss. But at the end of a game where it had chances, including a handful of point-blank opportunities for junior forward Julianna Bonner, the Wildecats remained positive.
“Having a battle like today, even though it hurts to lose, I think it’s a good thing for us,” said Hutchison, who has helped the Wildecats’ defense surrender just three goals now through eight games. “We are able to now build on the things that worked and learn from the things that didn’t so that we can keep getting better. We’ve been knocked down, but we will get back up again and keep moving forward.”
The majority of the first half was played in the middle of the field, with the two teams combining for just four shots through the opening 40 minutes.
But things picked up in the second half, with Wilde Lake taking advantage of through balls in transition and Atholton stringing together passes to get better opportunities up top. The best opportunity for either team during regulation came with 23 minutes left in the second half when Bonner split a pair of Raiders’ defenders on the left side and had her shot sail just wide of the far post.
In the early stages of overtime, Vaughn had her own point-blank shot sail just wide of the left post. She ended up getting another chance, though, shortly after and this time it set up the game winner.
Cardea’s goal with 2:27 left in the first overtime period helped give Atholton its fourth straight victory and keeps the team one game behind first-place River Hill (6-0 county).
“We knew Wilde Lake was undefeated and ever since Hebron there has been a fire in my stomach to get back to the top,” Cardea said. “So for us we came out here thinking they don’t have a loss, we do, and we need to come out here strong and we need to be able to finish this game strong.
“[Today was our chance to] kind of rebuild our reputation and make a statement throughout the rest of the county.”
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports