Homestanding Mercy and Notre Dame Prep had played on fairly even terms through 50 minutes yesterday when Caitlin Daras prepared to loft a kick from 40 yards away on a restart.
It was a thing of beauty, coming to earth right in front of the NDP goal where Becca Hojnowski waited impatiently. Leaping in a crowd, she got a piece of the ball, just enough to nudge it out and down where her right foot was waiting to thump it into the net.
Actually, it was the lone really good chance Mercy had to score all game and it saw that the goal stood up over the last 30 minutes to post a mildly surprising 1-0 victory.
Heretofore unranked Mercy is now unbeaten in five games (3-0-2) in what has to qualify as a rebuilding year since graduation losses were heavy. On this occasion, it was a case of the home team being outnumbered, but certainly not outhustled.
"We're playing very young, with just a couple of seniors and a lot of sophomores," said coach Geoff Daras, "consequently, we've worked really hard to this point knowing we'd be going with just 13 or 14 players."
Adding to Mercy's problem was the fact NDP was substituting players two and three at a time in an attempt to remain fresh on a sultry afternoon.
It showed, too, as NDP, now 1-2, swept toward the Mercy goal with the regularity of the tide.
But while 80 percent of the game was contested in Mercy's end of the field, the losing team rarely got a chance from in close. The Mercy back line and, when needed, goalie Jenn Williams, were that efficient.
The best chance for an NDP goal came just seconds before the end of the first half when Jenna Wontrop sent a kick just wide of the Mercy goal with Williams a good six feet fom the action.
"This was huge for us," said Geoff Daras.
"We won two games and a tournament in Erie, Pa., over Labor Day, but what does that mean here? Since then we've tied two ranked teams, Loch Raven and Parkville, and now sixth-ranked conference foe.
"We're in a tough league [Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland], that's for sure, but you never know what might happen if you keep plugging away."