It took nine games, but Centennial's girls soccer team is finally over .500.
"I think we're turning it around," said Eagles sweeper Tania Riismandel after her team's 1-0 victory yesterday over Wilde Lake at River Hill. "I think it took a couple losses to get us in gear."
The defending state class 3A-4A champions have won three straight to improve to 4-3-1 overall and 3-0-1 in the league. In their four league games, the No. 9 Eagles have not allowed a goal.
Is Centennial, which has losses this year to the Nos. 2, 3 and 8 teams, finally ready to play like a year ago when it went 18-0?
"I don't want to say we're over the hump yet," said co-coach Dave Greenberg. "We still have a ways to go. But we're definitely better than we were two weeks ago. We just have to sustain it.
"They're [Wilde Lake] a good team and we had to play well to beat them. We're playing harder with more discipline and more focus. We're moving in the right direction."
Senior forward Michelle Clare scored the only goal 10 1/2 minutes into the game. Center midfielder Stacie Tokasz, a freshman, passed to a wide-open Clare in front of the net, and the senior forward made a quick move to her right and beat goalie Jamie Marcus to the left corner.
"It was a good pass and I just got open," said Clare, who received the pass with her back to the goal before making her move. "It feels good to be over .500. I think we're on a roll."
Said Wilde Lake sweeper Katie Douglas: "We just weren't marking as tight as we should have when Michelle took the pass."
Wildecats co-coach Anita Andersch agreed with Douglas, and said her 13th-ranked team (5-3-1, 2-1-1) "played flat" at the start.
"I was a little upset in the first half, but very proud of the way they played in the second half," said Andersch, whose team played without top marking back Abby Berman, who is out with a broken thumb.
The Wildecats, whose starting lineup had only two seniors, applied more pressure in the second half, especially in the last 10 minutes. Sophomore striker Amanda Berman, all 5 feet of her, created a couple of chances for herself, but Centennial goalie Rima Sidhu came up with the saves.
"We were just nervous in the first half," said Amanda Berman, who is playing with fluid in her right knee. "After that first goal, I think we let down a little. At halftime, we talked about getting back to our short passing game and playing under composure, and we did a better job in the second half.
"Our team is capable of much more than this. We could have played better. I think we could have beaten them."
Centennial, which has had trouble finishing, also missed scoring opportunities in the second half. The Eagles' best chance came when Lauren Molinaro's free kick was dropped by Marcus and Cindy Echevarria missed an open net from the left side when her shot hit the crossbar.
But the Eagles didn't need to score again thanks to a defense, led by Riismandel, Regina Dinisio and Sidhu, that has allowed one goal in its last five games.
"I think we're getting there," said Sidhu, who had seven saves. "I think we're starting to work everything out. Hopefully, it will stay that way."