Hammond junior forward Jennah Hassan talks about her team's 4-1 season-opening win over Meade on Thursday, Sept. 8 at Meade High School. Hassan led her team with two goals and an assist in the game. (Monica D'Ippolito/Howard County Times video)
Hammond looked in mid-season form during its opening match against Meade Thursday in the first round of the Meade Classic Tournament.
Jennah Hassan led the Golden Bears with two goals and an assist during the convincing 4-1 victory.
"I feel really good about winning our first game today," Hassan said. "We did a really good job of working together as a team and talking to each other. Overall I thought we did really well."
Hassan's goal with 27 minutes left in the first half broke the game open. The junior forward beat the Mustangs back line on a long ball played through and slotted her first goal of the afternoon past goalie Brittany Johnson for the score.
"I think it was pretty exciting for me and the whole team as well," Hassan said of registering the game's opening score. "It really got us all on the right track and really motivated us to keep going strong."
Hammond took a 2-0 lead shortly after a water break was issued – due to the 90-plus degree weather – midway through the half.
Play resumed with a Golden Bear throw-in on Meade's defensive half of the field. The ball was played in, but was inadvertently touched by a Mustang defender in the box, calling for a handball and a penalty kick.
Hammond senior Katie Lastova stepped up and blasted a shot toward the top left corner. Johnson guessed correctly and got her hands on the ball, but Lastova put enough on the shot that it deflected off Johnson's fingertips and into the net.
"As far as the pk goes, I mean that was a good call. Hands were in a natural position, goalie made a good effort on it, but that kind of took a lot of wind out of our sails," said Mustangs coach Ray Fox. "I think we came out and we started well. We won some balls in the middle of the field. We kind of had a lull there in the middle of the first half, gave up the first goal and kind of picked it up toward the end, so overall I give them a C-plus – better than what we've played the past couple of weeks in our scrimmages and our first game, but definitely not what we want to do."
Hammond took the 2-0 cushion into the break, but Meade cut the deficit five minutes into the second half of action.
Mustang junior Ale Ramirez played a nicely lofted ball from atop of the box into the Golden Bears six, where junior Eleana Zill got a head on and flicked her shot past Hammond goalie Vicki Howard for the goal.
The score didn't discourage the Golden Bears, however, as they knocked in their third goal of the afternoon 10 minutes later.
Ashley Bissenas received a pass up top with her back against the goal and made a nice turn to get a step on her defender. The junior forward then took the ball end line, placing a well struck shot on Johnson who made the initial diving stop, but Hassan was there for the rebound, knocking in her second of the game and extending Hammond's lead back up to two.
"Getting that goal to pull it 2-1, it gave us a little bit of life, but to give up that third one that kind of sunk us to be honest with you," Fox said.
The Golden Bears added one more goal with seven minutes remaining in regulation. Mary Johnson sailed a well-struck corner kick toward the box, forcing Brittany Johnson to come out and make a play on the ball. The senior goalkeeper made the initial save, but couldn't secure the cross. Hassan once again found the rebound and played it out to teammate Jessica Welsh who placed her shot in the far corner to solidify the 4-1 outcome.
"Last year we started nine juniors, a sophomore and Zoe [Pekins] was the only senior we started, so after the last three years we've kind of been building, building and building toward this year," said Hammond coach Chris Reagle. "And you got girls like Jennah, Mansa [Asiedu], Jess and Ashley who are now juniors instead of sophomores from a year ago. Katie, Mary, [and] Madi [Pisone] in the middle are all seniors – so we're a year older, year better, year stronger and mentally we've now been playing the same system for three years and now it's clicking."
The Golden Bears out-shot the Mustangs 18-9 in the outing and despite leaving a couple scoring chances on the field, Reagle was happy with the way his team played in their first game of the season.
"There's a joke at practice, anytime they put a ball over the goal we have a penalty cone and they have to run 40 yards to the cone and back before they can get back in the drill. I saw a couple of them look back at me after they put it over and put their head down and I just kind of nodded," he said. "But I think that's what you're going to get for the first game of the year and we talked about it all year – it's not the chances, it's consistency. I think Jess had a beautiful goal. Jennah had a couple goals and, you know, we left some out there, but we left some out there and we still won 4-1 this early in the year that gives us hope for when we get into the county."
Brittany Johnson finished with nine saves on the day for Meade, while Howard tallied six stops for Hammond.
"I can never say enough about Vicki. Vicki is a monster back there and then the centerback pairing of Kathryn [Witt] and Amanda [Graves], they all work so well together," Reagle said. "We have a center midfield trio of Katie, Mary and Madison [Pisone] and they do such a nice job of controlling the midfield that it allows the attacking players on the outside room to kind of be free. I think you saw that on a couple of the goals where we are getting wide and we're getting deep because they're controlling the middle so well."
The Golden Bears will look to start the season 2-0 Saturday, playing the winner of Howard/Fallston in the championship game of the Meade Classic Tournament. The Mustangs drop to 1-1 on the season, and hopes for a better result in the consolation match.
"Going in we kind of now this is our year. It's put up or shut up," Reagle added. "So going into the county we always felt like we were going to have a strong team. And this was a game they played tough, they were skilled, they had a good goalie who made some good saves – it's almost like a breath of relief. Saturday is going to be a big test no matter who we play."
The Eagles fought through the brutal heat in their home-opener Thursday, and improved to 3-0 on the year, defeating the visiting Lions 2-0.
It was Centennial's third consecutive 2-0 decision of 2016, as junior Kelli Dunagan tallied her third goal of the season, while sophomore McKenna Griffin netted her first of the year.
Dunagan's score came late in the first half, but was facilitated by Griffin. Griffin beat her defender on the left side of the penalty box and took a hard shot that was initially saved the Liberty's keeper, but Dunagan was there for the rebound and slammed her shot in the back of the net, giving the Eagles the 1-0 lead.
Centennial took the one-goal advantage into halftime, but added on to its cushion with about 25 minutes left in regulation.
Dunagan returned the favor to Griffin on the second goal, slicing a great angled through ball to Griffin who netted her shot from around the top of the 18-yard box, chipping it right over the keeper.
The Eagles will try and maintain their perfect record Tuesday at Long Reach in their first county match of the year.
The Yellowjackets earned their first win of the season Thursday in their first IAAM C game of the year, defeating the hosting Warriors, 4-2.
Senior Mya Boyd was the catalyst for Chapelgate, netting two goals, while senior Megan Donnelly added a goal and an assist. Sophomore Abby Morsberger also registered a goal in the match, while freshman Addison Mueller tallied an assist.
Senior Madison Boyd finished with seven saves for the Yellowjackets.
Chapelgate is back in action Tuesday, as it visits IAAM C opponent Concordia Prep for a 4 p.m. matchup.
Goals: Ch – My. Boyd 2, Donnelly, Morsberger.
Assists: Ch – Donnelly, Mueller.
Saves: Ch – Ma. Boyd.
Oakdale 3, Mt. Hebron (2-1) 1 (Thursday, Sept. 8)
The Vikings suffered their first loss of the season Thursday in their home opener against the Bears.
Junior forward Mackenzie Folch tallied Mt. Hebron's only goal of the game, burying a penalty kick that was issued after an Oakdale defender took down Kaitlin Rice in the box.
The Vikings next outing is Tuesday, as they host Reservoir at 5:30 p.m.
Goals: MH – Folch.
Saves: MH – Pallozzi 6.
Perry Hall 2, Wilde Lake (0-1) 1 (Thursday, Sept. 8)
The Wildecats lost their season opener Thursday to the hosting Gators.
Julianna Bonner registered Wilde Lake's goal, with Lily Dunbar tallying the assist. Jenna Hutchison finished with five saves in the outing.
The Wildecats are back on the field Tuesday in their first county match of the season at Hammond. Game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start.