Catonsville avenged last year’s three losses to Perry Hall with a 2-0 victory during the regular season and they duplicated that score again in the Class 4A North Region championship game Friday afternoon at Catonsville High.
The win advanced the top-seeded Comets (14-1) to the regional title game at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5. against Sherwood.
It was Perry Hall who applied most of the pressure in the first half, but it was the Comets who broke in front on a goal by Claudia Flister off a cross from Ali Dingle.
The play started with a run down the center of the field by stopper Renee Gast.
Gast fed Dingle on the left flank and Flister deposited the ball into the net off her knee.
“That is just a hustle goal,” Catonsville coach James Fitzpatrick said. “We talk about that — if you get the ball in front of the net you just need to get a body part on it. It doesn’t have to be a great strike. You just got to want it.”
It appeared the Gators wanted it early in the game and they almost got a goal when Kara Taylor got a clean strike on the ball from 10 yards out just 13 minutes into the contest.
Goalie Natalie Croom stopped the shot, which caromed back to Taylor and her second attempt was blocked.
“We came out (in the beginning) the better team,” said Perry Hall assistant coach Matt Smoot. “We were building the ball and we played small and we had some really great runs and great chances. To their credit, they kept the pressure up and they packed it in and didn’t concede a goal.
Smoot was filling in for head coach Rick Testerman, who was busy working overtime for BGE after Hurricane Sandy caused power outages all over the state.
Catonsville’s own energy seemed to spike after leading scorer Jennifer Nonn received a yellow card.
“When she went out, we had to step it up because she is our best player,” Catonsville striker Deb Milani said. “We started out flat, but we kicked it up in the second half.”
“It was a tale of two halves,” Fitzpatrick said. “They came out aggressive and winning a lot of balls and we came out flat and not playing the balls we wanted to play.”
Offensively, the spark came from Milani, Flister, Dingle and Nonn, but it was the defense of Lauren Vogelpohl, Gast, Katie Viets and Anna Higdon and midfielders Deanna Eveland, Bria Benner and Nicole Jouan that put a blanket over the Gator attack in the second half.
That defense has only allowed five goals all season.
“They have really come together as a group,” Fitzpatrick said.
That defense set up Nonn for the insurance goal with 4:33 left in the second half.
Perry Hall only had three shots in the second half.
The first came early from Elizabeth Fitch and it was saved by Croom and the second was sent in by Erin Moran.
The final shot was the most dangerous. It was created by a through ball from Tina Bishop to Brooke Howard, but Croom made the stop.
Perry Hall, who defeated Catonsville in the regional and Baltimore County championship games last season, will graduate just four seniors from this year’s 10-4-2 squad.
“We are a young team and we’ve matured a lot this year,” Smoot said. “The girls have really learned to play together and play soccer and we will be a very tough team to beat next year, but Catonsville deserved this one.”
Fitzpatrick marveled at the way his team came together after standout Nonn went to the bench.
“As a group, they like each other and they work hard for each other straight down through the lineup,” Fitzpatrick said. “It doesn’t matter if its somebody who started or somebody who is on the bench. It’s 21 players who want the same thing.”
A regional championship is next on the list.