With lofty expectations overhead and a mud-slick field under foot, No. 5-ranked Notre Dame Prep overcame a slow start to overtake No. 14 Mercy, 3-2, yesterday in overtime.
Goalie Lauren Stone made 15 saves to keep Mercy at bay, and Megan Schwartz and Alli Nuzzi twice converted give-and-go plays, including the game-winner in overtime.
"The girls made T-shirts saying 'Feel the Pressure?' on the front and 'Beat the Pressure' on the back," said Notre Dame Prep coach Mark Deaton after visiting NDP's third consecutive victory boosted its record to 8-0-1. "And they beat the pressure today.
"Last year, there were no expectations on us, but this year our team is in a different position with a lot of expectations. But we handled it well today and are prepared for a tough schedule ahead."
Game-tested by a fierce early schedule, Mercy (6-4-1) dominated the beginning of the game with effective passing and aggressive play. Twenty-two minutes into the first half, Mercy's Katie Chrest capitalized on a well-placed throw-in and blasted the ball over Stone's head for a 1-0 lead.
"With the [bad] weather last week, we've had to play three games in a row and were slow getting started," said Deaton. "But [Mercy] has played a tougher schedule, and we knew that they would be difficult coming into this one. We weren't surprised they started out so strong."
Rising to the challenge, the Pirates' potent offense retaliated three minutes later when Lindy Zaicko sailed the ball into the goal's left corner to even the score 1-1. Spurred by the strike, team captain Schwartz maneuvered a pass from Nuzzi over goalie Liz Lombardo's head to secure a 2-1 lead one minute later.
"We planned that play," Schwartz said afterward, covered in mud and bandaged at the knee from one collision. "Alli and I have been working on that give-and-go play, and it worked. After starting slow, we really wanted to get back with some goals."
Momentum shifted quickly as both offenses ricocheted shots at the goals until Mercy took control of the ball with 11 minutes left in the half.
NDP's young defense held off the attacks until Kaitlin Schuyler fielded a pass from Chrest and fired a shot over Stone's head to even the score at 2.
In the second half, Stone's stellar performance shut down Mercy's tenacious offense. At one point, Stone, diving from side to side, made three saves in 3 1/2 minutes.
"We were dominating play 70 percent of the time," said Mercy coach Geoff Daras. "But Lauren [Stone] just played great to make all those saves. She was the difference in the game right there. We took our shots, but she made the difficult plays."
In overtime, NDP improved its short passing to dictate play. After failing to convert several corner shots, Schwartz again used the give-and-go play with Nuzzi to score the game-winner.