Moments into Mount Hebron's important Howard County league game at Centennial yesterday afternoon, Noelle Hopper slammed a shot wide, prompting Hebron coach Jeanette Ireland to yell, "Don't miss it next time."
Hopper, a senior midfielder, scored on her second shot two minutes later, assisted on the eventual game-winning goal and then preserved the lead late with a diving save on the goal line to lift the No. 11 Mount Hebron field hockey team to a 2-1 victory over No. 14 Centennial.
"It was the best game Noelle has had this year," Ireland said. "She's really struggled, so this was really a breakthrough game for her."
Hopper made her biggest play on the defensive end with the Vikings (4-1-1, 3-0 league) clinging to a one-goal lead. Centennial (5-3, 2-2) threw intense pressure at the Mount Hebron cage over the final 15 minutes and had its best chance to equalize after a pileup in front of the goal. As the ball was about to roll in, Hopper dove to stop it on the goal line and pushed the ball out of danger with 9:50 remaining.
"Whatever it takes to win, we had to get it done," Hopper said. "The girl was open down at the post, and I was guarding her. And I saw the ball coming to the post, so I dove to stop it and got it out of there."
Hopper opened the scoring just 2:22 in when she took a long pass from Julie Daun and rifled a shot from just inside the shooting circle past Centennial goalie Dayna Eng.
The Eagles tied the score with 5:54 remaining in the half after sophomore midfielder Chelsea Parks started a string of passes in the midfield to junior forward Katelyn McKinnley. McKinnley then sprang junior forward Sara Siegel into the shooting circle, and Siegel scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Mount Hebron scored the game-winner with just 22 seconds to play in the half after Hopper fired a shot to the far post and Emily Karrer hammered the ball into an empty corner of the cage.
"I don't think it came down to one player on their team," Centennial coach Gail Purcell said. "They were hunting in packs, and they moved to the ball extremely well. Of all the teams we've played this year, I think they were the best."