After 100 minutes of soccer yesterday morning, players for both No. 13 Hereford and unranked Perry Hall seemed satisfied with a 1-1 double-overtime tie.
"We knew we had to win or tie," said Hereford striker Hollis Botti, whose Bulls had suffered three straight shutout losses since a 5-2 season-opening win at Dulaney. "We really wanted to win this game to bounce back after losing to Franklin [2-0 on Tuesday], but we'll settle for a tie. It's better than a loss."
While the Bulls (1-3-1) are recovering from their dry spell, the Gators (4-0-1) have served notice - with Monday's 1-0 victory over No. 11 Loch Raven and yesterday's deadlock with the defending county champs - that they are the up-and-coming team in Baltimore County. Their defense had three straight shutouts before Botti broke through early yesterday.
Just seven minutes into the game, Botti shook a pesky Gators' double team and waited unmarked in the middle for Sarah Stoltz's corner kick. Stoltz served the ball into the box and Botti headed it past reaching Gators goalie Cathy Vecchioni.
"That goal got us frustrated, but we got over it pretty quickly," said Gators sweeper Lindsay Lauenstein, whose unit has allowed just two goals this season.
The Gators, who have struggled to find the finishing touch, needed just 15 minutes to answer the Bulls.
Johanna Xecominos, who scored the game-winner at Loch Raven, nailed a 25-yard direct kick from the right into the far corner.
For the next 78 minutes of the county Division II league opener, neither team could find the net.
"We're playing well," said Gators coach Brad Kressman. "I can't complain. Our perspective is that it's September and we want to be a November team. We just want to focus on getting better right now."
The Gators have been battered in the early going, most notably losing starting goalie Veronica Zientak for the season with a broken hand. Yesterday, stopper Doie Outen left the game after 15 minutes with a nagging hip injury.
Outen, who had marked Botti, was ably replaced by freshman Alie Barreiro, who fit right into the stellar defensive unit with Lauenstein, Katie McCarty and Amanda Profili.
After the initial lapse, they swarmed Botti, a second-team All-Metro pick who scored 22 goals last season, every time she got near the ball.
"They were doubling me," said Botti, "but it can be better that way, because it leaves another person open and we can serve to that person."
Botti, still not at full speed after surgery last winter to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, is content to be a distributor when she draws a crowd. Yesterday, she set up the best scoring opportunity for either team in overtime.
The junior sent a perfectly-timed through ball to Mollie Reese for a shot from the left side. Vecchioni made the save but could not hold the ball and it caroomed toward Stoltz, coming down the middle. Stoltz reached the ball before the lunging Vecchioni, but her shot sailed over the goal.