Pressing throughout the second half at Catonsville, the Mount Hebron boys soccer team knew it had to stay on course despite the obstacles that were piling up.
The No. 5 Vikings had a goal disallowed, a couple of fine shots turned away by Catonsville goalkeeper Eli Miller, and some other chances go high or wide.
They encouraged each other to keep working hard, that it was only a matter of time.
That time finally came with just over six minutes left to play and junior Luke Baldwin at the right place in front.
After Ethan Bishop played a ball to the middle, Baldwin pounced on the chance, scoring in his first varsity game to make the Vikings a 1-0 winner over the No. 10 Comets.
“We had a game plan that we didn’t execute very well in the first half, but in the second half, we came out strong, stuck to the plan, and it paid off,” Baldwin said. The goal “felt amazing. I have no words to describe it, just a great team effort that set me up.”
Mount Hebron, the defending Howard County champion and last year’s Class 3A state runner-up, opens its season with a quality win. Catonsville, which got a fine seven-save performance from Miller and a strong defensive effort altogether, goes to 1-2 overall. Each of the Comets’ three games have been 1-0 results.
Friday’s win taught the Vikings an immediate lesson.
As happens in many season openers, they got away from their game plan at times in an evenly played first half. What pleased coach Mike Linsenmeyer, though, was seeing his team play hard from the start.
At halftime, Mount Hebron made adjustments and applied them in the second half, collectively getting up and down the field, using its width better and locking the Comets in their end for most of the half.
After Miller made a diving save on Colton Wartman’s clean strike aimed for the corner, Sebastian Tobar had a chance in front spray wide before Justin Kweon’s apparent goal was disallowed because of a foul. But the Vikings prevailed, with Baldwin finding the big answer.
“The kids were persistent,” Linsenmeyer said. “Some things didn’t go our way, but they overcame them. Overcoming obstacles, you have to respond by playing hard and they did.”
Catonsville came into the season as the two-time defending Baltimore County champion, with high expectations under first-year coach Brendan Kennedy. With 17 returning varsity players, he believes the pieces are there. It’s just a matter of finding their places.
The Comets showed good possession at times in the first half, when most of their scoring chances came. But they couldn’t sustain much in the second half after the Vikings took charge.
“The team shape fell apart when countering and then transitioning back. There’s too many gaps,” Kennedy said.
“It was too much defending. We need more possession and more going our own way to score,” he added. “But we held them clean, held them fine until we just slipped up there, and one snuck through at the end. They keep knocking on the door like that, it’s going to open some time.”
No. 5 Mount Hebron 1, No. 10 Catonsville 0
Goals: MH — Baldwin.
Assists: MH — Bishop.
Saves: MH — Sidhu 2; C — E. Miller 7.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article attributed Luke Baldwin’s quote to another player.