When St. Mary's center Katie Busik sprained her ankle in practice on Wednesday, the No. 14 Saints feared they might lose a step in the midfield.
That happened for a while yesterday at No. 6 Roland Park, but the Saints recovered in the second half to tie the Reds, 1-1.
The Reds (1-0-1) dominated the first half, especially in the midfield with Jen Murray and Tammy Passano and on defense with Reagan Ranieri and Annie Pfaff. The Reds outshot the Saints, 9-2, in the period.
"We weren't penetrating at all," said Saints coach Patti Lavell. "They're a very fast team. They're quick with their passes connecting right to the person and the goalie could clear it out right away and the ball was in their end."
Still, the Reds could manage only a 1-0 lead on Emily Hamilton's goal with 10:50 to go before halftime. Erin McInnes started the scoring play with a pass into the circle that Hedy Born redirected toward Hamilton on the far post.
In the second half, the Saints (5-0-2) evened things up with more offensive pressure. Dana Rigot, who ably filled Busik's spot, along with back Mary Siebert kept the pressure on the Reds' defense.
More than half of the Saints' shots came on one play late in the first half, but that play resulted in the tying goal.
On a corner play, the Saints peppered Reds keeper Meredith Shuey with six quick shots. Shuey (nine saves) stopped the first five before Nicole Brookman fired a rebound into the far corner with 9:41 left in the game.
The Reds had a few more chances to score with two corners in the final six minutes and a break-away by Lizzy Bennett on the wing, but Shuey had to save the game in the final seconds with a sliding clear.
"It's a good tie, because they're No. 6 and we're No. 14," said Brookman. "They kind of like psyched us out in the first half, so just tying is good enough for us."
The Reds probably haven't seen the last of the Saints, who hope to join the AIS next year.
"It would be nice to have the possibility of being in the playoffs," said Lavell, whose team plays an independent schedule, "and to have some kind of structure instead of playing everybody. We'd just like to belong somewhere."