Visiting Catonsville High snatched a tie from the jaws of defeat at Perry Hall High Wednesday night when Renee Gast scored off of Lauren McDonald's feed with 32 seconds left in regulation to send the girls soccer clash into overtime.
The scoreless overtime resulted in a 1-1 tie for the No. 5 ranked Comets (1-0-2) against the unranked Gators (1-0-1).
The game was a rematch of last year's Class 4A North Region semifinal, when the Comets rallied from a 1-0 deficit for a 2-1 win.
The game-tying sequence was set up by a clear from Taylor Stephen to Kayla Wood, who drew a foul with under a minute remaining.
McDonald beat her defender down the sideline and sent a soft left-footed lob to the waiting head of Gast.
"That's just the move I've always done," McDonald said. "Kick it toward the end line and just cross it in the middle and someone will be there."
McDonald played goalie for much of last season when the 17-2 Comets won county and regional titles and lost the state championship game to Walt Whitman.
She was not prepared to lose.
"I can't tell you how much I and the whole team wanted to win this game," she said. "Perry Hall is a great team and every year, it's going to be a fight."
The Gators posted a 9-7 mark last year.
The Comets (2-0-1) returned seven starters from that 17-2 squad, but head coach James Fitzpatrick retired from coaching and became Catonsville's athletic director.
New coach Gary Lynch took over after posting a 243-75-18 career mark in 16 seasons coaching the John Carroll girls.
He admitted the Gators controlled the first half when they outshot the Comets 6-2, but the Comets outshot them 7-2 in the second half.
"That's a credit to the kids," Lynch said. "The last 20 minutes, we just hoped they would break sooner or later and we were able to score."
Perry Hall's defense of sweeper Taylor Francis, wingbacks Nataya Kennedy and Abby Dunkerton and stopper Emma Eisemann kept the Comets scoreless for 79 minutes and Francis contributed with the Gators' only goal.
She converted a corner kick from Elizabeth Fitch with less than two minutes elapsed in the second half.
"I usually go for every corner and I just felt it coming," she said. "I had that ball and I was going for it with everything I had. I knew I had it. I just felt the energy and I went for it."
Ironically, Francis is a longtime summer club ball teammate of Catonsville's Jenn Nonn, who has 68 career goals, but was blanked by the Gators.
Her hustle, along with that of Comet defenders Lauren Vogelpohl, Jen Gast, Stephen and Lila Nazarian and midfielder Ali Dingle turned the tide in the second half.
"We obviously didn't play that well at the start, so when things started to come together, I really just felt like we need to capitalize," McDonald said. "We deserved a goal at the end."
Perry Hall got strong play all around from Melissa Placek, Elizabeth Fitch, Lauren Hall and Rachel Bohli in the first half, but their best scoring chance came on a semi-bicycle kick from Bohli that was tapped in the air and corralled by goalie Natalie Croom with 6:25 left in the first half.
"I'll give all the credit to the girls today," Perry Hall coach Matt Smoot said. "That's the way that they have attacked practice this year."
In the first 10-minute overtime, Nonn had a shot with 6:05 left that just leaked wide and Wood had an errant shot with 9:20 left in the second overtime.
Perry Hall had solid opportunities from Bohli and Jenna Alaoui in the overtimes.
The two teams could be destined to meet again in the regional playoffs, but Smoot was happy to see the Comets early.
"Seeing a big rival in one of the first or second games, we are happy about that," he said. "We want to get them early and we want to test ourselves early. We are only going up from here."
In the first game of the soccer double header at Perry Hall, the Catonsville boys defeated Perry Hall, 2-1.
Boys varsity soccer scores
Dundalk 11 Carver 0
Milford Mill 6 Woodlawn 1
Eastern Tech 1 Hereford 0
Towson 1 Franklin 0
Chesapeake (BC) 5 Parkville 1
Pikesville 7 Owings Mills 0
Sparrows Point 2 Loch Raven 0
Dulaney 3 Kenwood 0
Catonsville 2 Perry Hall 1
Patapsco 2 Overlea 0
Girls varsity soccer scores
Dundalk 4 Carver 2
Dulaney 9 Kenwood 1
Eastern Technical 2 Hereford 0
Chesapeake (BC) 1 Parkville 0
Pikesville 2 Owings Mills 0
Patapsco 8 Overlea 1
Towson 6 Franklin 0