Hammond coach Dave Guetler could not rest easy before Fallston's girls soccer team came to town yesterday.
"I was really afraid of this game," Guetler said. "I thought they'd catch us napping."
Instead, the Bears, ranked No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun preseason girls soccer poll, got a wake-up call. They had to come on strong to pull off a 3-1 victory over the Harford County champion Cougars, ranked No. 7.
Fallston's defense and Hammond's missed opportunities kept the game close until late in the second half.
After the Bears took a first-half lead, Fallston tied it at 1-1 midway through the second half on Carey Gayo's shot off a pass from Beth Blasi, who had broken between two defenders.
That's when Hammond woke up.
At the 23-minute mark, Kacy Williams moved through two defenders, toyed with Cougars goalie Suzy Harrison and shot the ball by her.
Kisha Jett's insurance goal sealed the victory for Hammond, the co-Howard County champion, in the season opener for both teams.
"We just sort of lost it at the end," said Cougars sweeper Beth Rappold. "Up front, they just had so much speed and in the middle they had so much control. They were really tough."
Although the Bears started off slowly, they had not forgotten that Fallston played them tough in losing,4-2, early last season.
"They always do well against us," said Williams, a senior halfback. "Last year, they were the only team to score two goals on us, so we took our defense very seriously."
The Bears' defenders and halfbacks shut down the Cougars in the first half, holding them to four shots.
Amy Nestor, who finished with six saves, stopped three in the half.
Hammond dominated the half and had at least a half-dozen good opportunities to score, but connected on just one, Liz Bielefeld's direct kick from about 30 yards out at the 17-minute mark.
"I tried to do a line drive and keep it low, and it reflected off the wall and went in the right corner," said Bielefeld, who fired the shot past Harrison as she committed in the opposite direction.
0$ Harrison finished with 12 saves.