Centennial field hockey coach Gail Purcell believes that in the course of a season a team needs a "pivotal game" when it digs within itself and finds a way to win. Yesterday, the 12th-ranked Eagles did just that.
Trailing 13th-ranked Long Reach at halftime, Centennial tied the game on Nicole Simon's goal with 2:02 left in regulation. The rejuvenated Eagles wasted little time in overtime, as Laura Angle scored her team-leading sixth goal of the season 2 minutes, 37 seconds into the extra period for a 2-1 Howard County league victory at Long Reach.
Once the game went into overtime, the Eagles (5-1 overall, 3-0 league) liked their chances. "I knew if we got into overtime we could win," said Centennial forward Eva Armanas. "We have six very strong players and we work very well together."
Centennial pressured Long Reach right away in overtime and didn't let up. The Eagles were awarded a free hit outside the top of the circle, and Lauren Matthews sent the ball toward the cage. Players from both teams converged to the ball and moved en masse toward goalie Jessica Robertson.
"I was charging at the ball," said Angle. "I kept hitting off the goalie pads and then it went off to the side and I hit it in."
Long Reach (5-2, 1-1) controlled much of the first half, and took a 1-0 lead with 1:18 left on Brandi Franks' shot from just inside the top of the arc.
"I thought it was a good thing that Long Reach scored," said Purcell, who felt her team played flat in the first half. "It motivated us and Long Reach sat back and we dominated the rest of the game."
As it did last week when the Lightning made a first-half Franks' goal stand up in a 1-0 win over River Hill, Long Reach played more defense in the second half. The Lightning crossed midfield just a few times, and took only one shot.
Centennial had the ball often in its offensive end, but with so many players in the area had trouble getting off good shots. On its seventh corner of the second half, Armanas passed to Simon inside the top of the circle. Simon rifled a shot that went off Robertson's pad and into the goal.
"On that play I was supposed to pass to Laura [Angle]," Simon said, "but I saw a defender come toward her and I took it."
Long Reach coach Kelly Snyder said she was "proud of my team" and that "we learned something today."
So did Centennial. A few days ago, Purcell questioned her team's heart and desire.
"I saw it today," she said.