Top-ranked St. Mary's had its precise and often dazzling one-touch possession game on display for the first time yesterday afternoon in Annapolis.
Against a stubborn Thomas Johnson team that brought a defense-first approach, the Saints attacked, and attacked some more.
And then, finally, they scored.
Senior striker Nicole DiAngelo provided the necessary finish with 17:35 left in the second half to give the Saints a well-deserved 1-0 win over their Frederick County opponents.
Unable to convert on previous chances from nearly the same spot, DiAngelo made good on a through ball from junior midfielder Erin Holland, one-timing a shot from 12 yards past Thomas Johnson's drawn-out keeper, Amy Franciscovich.
"I had about four chances getting the ball from the same [left] side. Finally, I one-timed one home -- but it was a big team effort," said DiAngelo.
"It was getting a little frustrating, building up and getting the ball all the way up there and not getting it in. But it keeps it exciting."
St. Mary's coach Jerry Tobin would gladly exchange more goals for that kind of excitement, but left very pleased with his team's overall performance and was quick to credit the Patriots' resilient defense.
"I think we played extremely well. We handled the ball well and had a lot of composure. And we were controlling the ball and passing to attack," he said. "Their back line was good. They took everything we threw at them and handled it well."
The Saints outshot the Patriots by a 21-2 margin, often playing their own game of keep-away with good spacing and patient build-up from the back.
The Saints went to work early, with Meghan Ryan sending a cross from the right side that Melissa Anderson headed on goal, saved by Franciscovich.
Later in the first half, Mary Key aimed a shot at the left corner, but Thomas Johnson defender Kendall Bolte headed it off the line. Then Anderson had another header go over the top in the final minute of the first half.
The Saints' persistence finally paid off with DiAngelo's second-half goal.
"When we put St. Mary's on the schedule, we knew we would be going up against the most talented team in the state of Maryland. Player for player, I'd be shocked to see a team be able to match up with them," said Thomas Johnson coach Chuck Nichols, who guided his Patriots to the Class 4A-3A state championship in 1997.
North Carroll 3, Maryvale 2: The No. 12 Panthers, who scored three first-half goals, withstood a furious second-half rally by the host Lions to escape.
But Maryvale rallied. With about 10 minutes gone, sophomore forward Katie Sullivan pounced on a North Carroll turnover in its defensive box. Then with about 13 minutes left to play, senior forward and All-Met player Stephanie Sybert converted a pass from junior forward Casey Hazel to make it a one-goal game.