With 13 seconds left on the clock and No. 4 Roland Park clinging to a 7-6 lead, Reds goalie Meghan McInnes knew exactly where St. Mary's Tiffany Venuto would try to place her last-chance eight-meter effort.
"I knew she was going to go low," McInnes said. "On all their free positions, they'd gone low."
When Venuto fired at her feet, McInnes deflected the ball to preserve a 7-6 Reds victory in yesterday's critical Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference League game at Weems Whelan Field in Annapolis.
McInnes, a senior headed for Princeton, made two of her 11 saves in the final 18 seconds to hold off the No. 6 Saints.
With 21 seconds left, the Saints' Kelly Coppedge scarfed up a ground ball 30 yards from McInnes and raced to goal. She fired a low bouncer that McInnes blocked.
"It was definitely an intense situation," said McInnes, a veteran of the U.S. World Cup champion Under-19 team. "The whole game was really intense. I just think we held our composure really well as a team."
McInnes certainly did.
Earlier in the half, she made two point-blank saves against the Maryland-bound Coppedge. On the second one with about three minutes to go, the rebound was scooped past McInnes into the goal, but the score was disallowed when the official called one of the Saints for being in the crease.
After that close call, McInnes and the Reds defenders made sure nothing else got past them.
"Our defense in the second half really stepped it up," said Reds coach Tara Kramer. "We played great team defense, and Meghan came up with crucial saves."
In a back-and-forth game that neither team led by more than two goals, the Saints took their last lead at 3-2 midway through the first half.
The Reds broke a 4-4 halftime tie with back-to-back goals from Mary McCeney and Kelsey Twist, who finished with three goals. Jaimee Motley's spin move pulled the Saints within 6-5 with 18: 08 left, but Kinsey Morrison converted the game-winner for the Reds with 11: 56 left.
Morgan Thalenberg scored her second goal, running 40 yards off a loose ball, to pull within 7-6 at the 6: 03 mark, but that would be it for St. Mary's offense.
The Saints didn't help themselves by turning the ball over a couple times at critical points late in the game.
"We didn't get the ground balls and we made some sloppy passes under pressure," said Saints coach Erika Bristow, "but we played a great game. It's just that Roland Park capitalized on one or two more of our mistakes than we did on their mistakes."
The victory gives the Reds (7-0-2 overall, 4-0 league) a one-game lead over St. Mary's (7-3, 3-1) in the league. With one league game left, the Reds likely will have the top-seeded spot in the league when the IAAM tournament begins in three weeks.