Glenelg Country midfielder Shay Ahearn has been in enough tight games to know that there is no second-guessing.
With roughly 11 minutes remaining against visiting St. Mary’s on Thursday, having seen a four-goal halftime lead wiped away and replaced with the tension of a tied affair, the senior scooped a ground ball and immediately hauled coast-to-coast. This created a four-on-three fastbreak, as multiple St. Mary’s players scurried in Ahearn’s wake.
Once Ahearn got close enough, she dumped it to Josie Pell, who then advanced it to Jaclyn Marszal at the doorstep to emphatically nudge the Dragons ahead — for good.
Marszal’s strike spurred by Ahearn’s determination with 10:38 left in regulation lived to be the game-winning goal, as Glenelg Country eked out another close game Thursday, 14-12, at home. It’s the Dragons’ (8-3 overall, 7-1 IAAM A conference) fourth win decided by two goals or fewer this spring. Their only three losses, to Lassiter (Ga.) and Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) over spring break and Archbishop Spalding in IAAM A play, came by three goals or less.
“The more you practice them, you get used to it,” Ahearn said of the close games. “It’s almost like you’re working for each other. You find out how everyone clicks. When you haul it, you’re usually going to have a three-on-two. And then [Jaclyn] finished it, which is the most important part.”
Ahearn finished the evening responsible for more than half of her team’s points, registering four goals and four assists. The senior was also a force in the circle, winning 18 of the 28 draw controls. Glenelg Country also received hearty contributions from senior midfielder Kate Sites (three goals, one assist) and senior goalie Avery Dyer (six saves).
Dyer made three monumental saves on the Saints’ second-to-last possession with under seven minutes to go.
Glenelg Country and St. Mary’s (5-6 overall, 3-6 conference) wasted little time trading blows, as the Dragons staked an early 4-3 lead. There were three lead changes by the 17:25 mark of the first half.
Ahearn then scored her second and third goals of the contest when she knifed through the middle of the field to make it 5-3 and then whipped a rocket from the left wing for a 6-3 lead.
St. Mary’s then clawed back to tie it at 7-7 after a goal from Kaitlyn Panebianco, but Glenelg Country countered with a 4-0 run over the final 6:47 of the first half to lead 11-7 at halftime.
“We played really smart offense and managed our possessions well,” Glenelg Country coach Brian Reese said. “The little burst we had at the end of the first half definitely gave us breathing room.”
By the 17-minute mark in the second half, the Saints had fired back with a 4-0 run of their own, two of them from Gracie Driggs (five goals), to knot it at 11. Ahearn and Driggs both added goals, respectively, before Ahearn setup the coast-to-coast ground ball for the eventual winning score.
But before the Dragons’ sealed their eighth win of the season, Dyer and her defense had to fend off one last, hard push from the Saints, who unloaded four high-percentage scoring chances with under seven minutes to go.
“It was very nerve-wracking, but the whole defense had a really good set, especially that last one,” Dyer said.
Even though Glenelg added another goal and spread the field to hold it for 3:30 of the final four minutes, Katie Ochall gave St. Mary’s one last chance when she created a turnover with 30 seconds left. The Saints mustered two more shots, but both were snuffed out.
“Draws were crucial in this game. Whoever was getting the ball was putting it in the back of the net,” St. Mary’s coach Mindy Jones said. “We just weren’t able to convert. But I’m really proud of our defense. … We dug deep and fought for a full 50 minutes.”