North Harford spent lots of time in the Bel Air circle during Tuesday night's game. The Hawks pressured the host Bobcats throughout the early minutes and pushed even more early in the second half.
But Bel Air repeatedly cleared the ball away from goalie Rachelle Ciulla and out of trouble. Ciulla made a few big plays herself, and all of that helped Abby Dempsey's first-half goal stand up as Bel Air edged No. 6 North Harford, 1-0, in an Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference game.
For Bel Air (6-0, 1-0), this was its first victory over North Harford (3-1, 0-1) in five years. The Bobcats made the first night game on their new turf field at the rebuilt school a special one by outlasting a stubborn North Harford team.
The Hawks controlled play in the opening minutes of both halves. They finished with 12 penalty corners but couldn't do much with them – ending up with only three shots on goal as Bel Air repeatedly cleared the ball.
"North Harford [seemed to] have 12 people in the circle," said Bel Air coach Phyllis Hemmes. "I was very pleased with these kids. They were able to do what I asked, which was get the ball out to the side."
Bel Air repeatedly cleared the ball out of trouble, especially when North Harford dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Hawks also stepped up the pressure in the final minutes, but Ciulla (three saves) gambled and made some good plays in front of the cage.
Ciulla came way out of the cage a few times to kick away the ball and stop North Harford threats. It just added to the strong defensive effort.
"Their defense was awesome," said North Harford coach Katie Simms. "Their goalie was outstanding. We had plenty of chances, but we just couldn't score."
Hemmes said Ali Petrone and Lisa Noll stood out on defense along with Ciulla, and they were big reasons Dempsey's goal proved to be enough.
Dempsey scored with 7:44 left in the first half on what was Bel Air's first – and best – scoring chance.
The play began on a penalty corner when Emily Gryglewski got the ball towards the right side of the circle and quickly pushed it to Dempsey in the middle. Her shot beat North Harford goalie Beth Genovese (three saves) on the left side.
"I pretty much just hit it and hoped it went in," Dempsey said. "I think that got the momentum going for us."
That did seem to change things for the rest of the first half before North Harford began putting on the pressure after the break. But Bel Air's defense and Ciulla answered the call – and even three North Harford penalty corners in the final 70 seconds couldn't help the Hawks.
Bel Air 1, North Harford 0
Goals: B-Dempsey. Assists: B-Gryglewski. Saves: N-Genovese 3; B-Ciulla 3. Half: B, 1-0.