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Catonsville girls soccer advances to regional finals with 3-1 win over Perry Hall

The last two times Catonsville and Perry Hall met on the girls soccer pitch, the Comets provided the late heroics.

When the teams collided in the Class 4A Section I finals on Thursday night, the game figured to go down to the wire, but a pair of seniors made sure that didn't happen.

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Catonsville senior Ali Dingle (1 goal, 1 assist) broke a 1-1 tie when she headed in Lenna Meyer's corner kick with 14:32 left in the second half and senior Jenn Nonn added a goal with 3:26 left and the Comets prevailed, 3-1, at Catonsville High School.

Catonsville shoots for its second straight regional championship when the Comets play at Howard on Nov. 4.

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"I just saw the ball and I just saw the opportunity and I just jumped up and put my head on it and it was a shock because I didn't know it went in at first," said Dingle, who assisted the Comets first goal when she took a free kick two yards outside the box and watched Renee Gast finish for a 1-0 lead with 28:19 left in the first half.

"I think set plays is definitely a strength for us and it's something we take pride in," Dingle said. "I think we did a great job finishing them today."

With under 16 minutes left in the half, Perry Hall sophomore Rachel Bohli proved she could finish too, when she scored on a rocket to the far corner from 30 yards out, tying the score at 1-1.

Before either team had scored Catonsville goalie Natalie Croom came up with two big saves when she barged way off the end line and cut off angles on shots by Bailey D'amico and Bohli.

"I felt we built the ball well tonight. We were missing that last run," Perry Hall coach Matt Smoot said. "Just one more run diagonally, but credit to their defense for being so strong."

That steady Comet defense settled down after the first 10 minutes, thanks to Lauren Vogelpohl, Lila Nazarian, Taylor Stephen, Lauren McDonald and Andrea McTaggart.

Last year, in the regional semifinals, McTaggart scored the game-winning goal against Perry Hall with under four minutes left in regulation to give the Comets a 2-1 victory.

On Sept. 10 this season, Catonsville's McDonald assisted Renee Gast with 32 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 1-1 and the game ended deadlocked after two overtimes.

Now, McTaggart and McDonald are solid defensive weapons.

But, the Gators also had stingy defenders in Taylor Francis, Maddie Colonna, Lauren Hall and Abby Dunkerton.

"Our defense played phenomenal," Smoot said. "We stuck to our game plan defensively."

"They were putting a lot of pressure on us," said Catonsville's Nonn, who often was engulfed by four or five defenders every time she touched the ball.

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The one time she got free for the goal, Catonsville coach Gary Lynch was hoping she would take the ball away from the goal, but her heart and determination got in the way.

"It was all guts," Lynch said of Nonn's add-on goal. "With that much time (under four minutes), normally what we would try to do is take it to the corner and delay the game. She did what we asked her to do and she saw an opportunity and took advantage of it and they paid for it."

Nonn beat three defenders with some nifty ball handling and drilled a a left-footed shot from 20 yards out.

"I was going to the corner, but then I saw the opportunity so I just went for it," Nonn said.

She had no idea the Gators were playing with a keeper who had never played in goal before.

A head injury to starter Maggie Lent in the previous game's win over Dulaney prevented her from playing and reserve Jasmine Ferrara was unavailable, so midfielder Sam Bauer played keeper.

"No matter what keeper is in, we are going to shoot on them and test them," Nonn said.

"Samantha Bauer started and stepped up and played amazing," Smoot said. "This is a game that could have gone either way. For the adversity we faced, I give the girls all the credit and I think this is the best Perry Hall team I've coached."

But, in the end, it wasn't the hard challenges, hustle and aggression that made the difference.

Catonsville's Nonn knew exactly what did.

"You have to score on set plays," she said. "That's a given opportunity and Ali got that one in and Renee got the other one in. It was really key."

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