Bel Air's Natalie Neff (17) and Fallston's Brooke Nigrin (14) chase a loose ball.

Bel Air's Natalie Neff (17) and Fallston's Brooke Nigrin (14) chase a loose ball. (Lloyd Fox / The Baltimore Sun / September 23, 2013)

Bel Air senior forward Natalie Decker couldn't guess how many of her shots had clanked off the post or skimmed the crossbar this season.

But her first goal of the year couldn't have come at a bigger time for the No. 9 Bobcats' girls soccer team.

Decker's goal with 1:17 to play in the second half Monday against Harford County rival and 12th-ranked Fallston proved to be the difference as host Bel Air earned a tightly-contested 1-0 win.

Given rare space on the left side after a short pass from Shannon Williams, Decker sent a shot from 14 yards over Fallston goalie Kayla Reilly to give the home team the win.


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Bel Air improves to 5-1 on the season, while the Fallston Cougars fall to 4-3.

In a tightly-marked, evenly-contested game that could have gone either way, Decker was the one to find the answer on offense.

"It was really exciting because the final minutes, there's always some added pressure," she said. "It feels awesome because I have been hitting the post and getting unlucky, so it was great to get one in. It's definitely worth the wait."

The Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference is expected to be a tight race with a number of teams qualified to bring home the championship.

Bel Air and Fallston showed just how close it may be. Bel Air coach Josh Clemmer said the early-season win could go a long way.

"It was just a great effort from the first whistle to the last," Clemmer said. "The girls knew that if they had a minute of let up that Fallston could put one in. We knew we needed to keep pressing to get our opportunities and they were able to do that.

"This sets the course for the season. It lets us know where we are, for my girls to be confident in themselves, and it's great progress moving forward."

The Cougars got a strong performance from forward Sierrah Taylor, who got behind the Bobcats' defense a number of times in both halves, but was unable to finish on the scoring chances she did well to create. Fallston coach Mark Hannahs was pleased with the Cougars' effort, adding his team is "snakebit" right now when it comes to putting in goals.

"I just told the girls not to hold their heads down, no tears, they played a great game," he said. "Bel Air played a great game and we played a great game and it came down to one goal."

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Girls soccer

9 Bel Air 1, 12 Fallston 0

Goals: BA -- Decker

Assists: BA -- Williams

Saves: F – Reilly 4; BA – Sippos 5.

Half: 0-0.