Centennial opened up its season with a 2-0 win Saturday against Chesapeake on Day 2 of the Catonsville Tournament at Catonsville High School.
Junior Kelli Dunagan was the catalyst in the game, notching both goals in the victory.
"Overall I think we played really well," Dunagan said. "We connected better than we had in our two scrimmages, which is a good sign. In our two scrimmages we didn't finish very well. We got more shots today and more finishes."
Centennial and the Cougars battled through a scoreless first half, which saw the Eagles out-shoot Chesapeake 7-4. They created numerous opportunities in their offensive zone, but the Cougars back line caught them offside on four separate occasions during the period.
However, Centennial used Chesapeake's high back line as an advantage in the second half, making an adjustment on its passes. Both of Dunagan's goals came on lofted balls over the top of the defense.
"We definitely should have been up two or three in the first half. I think that was very clear. We got to do better with finishing that's what hurt us in our first scrimmage. Overall we did a fantastic job in the first half. In the second half we talked about playing those through balls and such like that and it clearly worked," said Eagles coach Steve Baxter. "The balance comes when we're defending and not playing kick-ball, but having purpose. So we need to try and get a little better with that when we're trying to hang on, but other than that I'm happy."
Dunagan's first goal came within the first five minutes of the second half, as senior forward Jasmine McCree played a long ball around midfield toward Dunagan, who ran on to the pass and slotted her shot far corner past the outstretched arm of the Cougars goalkeeper Ellen Ziaja.
About 11 minutes later Dunagan added the Eagles an insurance goal. This time running down a lofted ball from senior midfielder Sandy Eichhorn, and once again, Dunagan slotted her shot right corner for the score.
"At halftime we talked about switching the ball, because they were holding a high offside line, so we talked about switching it and getting it over," Dunagan explained. "Jaz was able to get it over their back line and I was ahead of them. The second goal was set up exactly like the first goal, so I was confident I would do the same thing and get a good shot."
Like the first 40 minutes, Centennial out-shot Chesapeake 7-4 in the second half and put Ziaja to work. The junior goalkeeper made some impressive stops throughout the contest, and ultimately finished with eight saves in the game.
"We did good. We made progress," Baxter said. "I think we clearly fixed our issues. Their goalie made a couple great plays too, so aside from the misses that we had that we should have made, their goalie made some really nice saves too. It could have been a lot different than two, so I'm pretty pleased."
The Cougars also created some havoc in their offensive third, but could not tally a score. One of their best chances came two minutes after Centennial took a 1-0 lead, as center back Madison Wheeler stepped up and rocketed a shot about 30 yards out. Freshman goalkeeper Ashley Bilger got her hands on the shot, but the rebound just missed the inside of the goal, knocking off the post and out of play.
"I thought we possessed the ball a lot better today," said Cougars coach Kevin Keeter. "We definitely were playing faster. The first half, was a great first half and we had two great opportunities on corner kicks that we just didn't finish. They're a good team – I'm not happy with the loss, but happy with the way we played."
Chesapeake drop to 0-2 on the year, after losing in penalty kicks to Mt. Hebron Friday. Its next match is September 12 against Leonardtown.
Centennial went on to defeat South Carroll, 2-0, in its second game of the day, improving to 2-0 on the season.
Centennial (1-0) 2, Chesapeake (0-2) 0 (Saturday, Sept. 3)
Goals: C – Dunagan 2.
Assists: C – McCree, Eichhorn.
Saves: C –McVicker 2, Bilger 1; Ch –Ziaja 8.