For openers, River Hill will take it.
"We didn't play up to our potential," said junior forward Shannon Jackson, "but we played well for the first game."
The fourth-ranked Hawks controlled 14th-ranked Bel Air from the start yesterday, scoring in the third minute en route to a 2-0 victory at River Hill. The score could have been more one-sided, but River Hill missed many opportunities and Bel Air goalie Lauren Wohl made some quality saves.
"It was nerve-wracking," said Wohl, who was icing a shiner under her left eye after the game, a black-and-blue reminder of a diving second-half save. "I had to be up on my toes and ready the whole time."
River Hill, the two-time defending Howard County champion, outshot the Bobcats, 16-6. And it didn't take long for the Hawks to show their superiority on the hot and humid afternoon.
Junior forward Rashida Walcott tested Wohl 80 seconds into the game, but missed to the left as the River Hill bench cheered in anticipation of the goal. The Hawks regained possession, however, and scored moments later.
Megan O'Grady's shot hit the crossbar and bounced in front of the goal. A brief skirmish ensued. The ball bounced a few feet to the right, where midfielder Jennifer Pla scored into an open net.
"I was to the left of the goal [when O'Grady kicked it] and moved to the right," said Pla, who played defense last year. "I saw the ball come out and put it in."
The Hawks created many more scoring opportunities, but just couldn't finish. Jackson, with an assist from Jennifer Katz, got it past Wohl with 27 minutes to play with a well-placed shot from the right side of the box that hit the left corner of the net.
River Hill coach Joan Kelso Smedley was glad to see her team create opportunities, and knows more goals will come.
"It would bother me if it was in the middle of the season," Smedley said of the missed shots. "But with some more practice and some games under our belt I think they'll start putting those chances in."
Smedley said she was "very pleased with the way they played. The movement of the ball was there -- they were really trying to use the whole field and create space."
The Hawks also got a strong game from sweeper Natalie Klisas, who was covering much ground in the opening half.
Bel Air (1-1) played without Kristi Eyler, last year's leading scorer who pulled a muscle in her right leg in practice. She is not expected back until next week. Her absence hurt, but it doesn't discount that the Bobcats were out-fought and out-hustled.
"The difference between last year's game [a 1-0 Bel Air win] and this year was hustle," said Bel Air coach Bill Zimmerman. "We got out-stepped this year, and you can't win the game when you don't have your foot on the ball. They were intimidating and we didn't go for the ball."