Since the early days of summer practice, Centennial field hockey coach Gail Purcell has held a dual opinion of her newest team: marvelous talent, questionable heart.
The Eagles did little to dispel that notion Friday afternoon against visiting Oakland Mills.
Centennial traded possessions with the Scorpions during a largely uneventful first half, then suddenly turned up the offensive pressure after halftime and overmatched the Scorpions at times for the rest of the game.
Twenty minutes into the second half, after several Centennial chances had been ruined by Oakland Mills goalie Kelly Naylor, Eagles forward Beth Pressler hit a deflected shot by teammate Megan McGowan past Kaylor to give the Eagles a 1-0 victory.
It was the county opener for both teams.
"They're a second-half team," said Purcell, whose Eagles improved their overall record to 3-2-1 and recorded her 98th career victory. "It's like they need to have something to analyze so they can see what they're doing wrong. They feel out the rough spots, then correct them."
The Eagles started with a flourish, pressuring the Scorpions' goal to the tune of four penalty corners in the first two minutes. Ten minutes into the half, though, the Eagles were stalling on offense, prompting Purcell to call a timeout.
Most of the first half was played between the striking circles, as neither team could finish any opportunities. Eagles sweeper Laure Kaylor was Oakland Mills' main nemesis. She controlled the middle of the field all day and stopped numerous fast breaks single-handedly in the first half. She was also the main reason goalie Meghan Carr made just two saves.
At the other end of the field, Oakland Mills sweeper Jill Sammons and Naylor -- a freshman goalie -- were thwarting Centennial. Neither goalie would make a save until the second half, but when Centennial's second-half assault began immediately after the opening push, Naylor stepped forward with a strong performance. She recorded six saves.
"She's the best goalie I've seen this year, other than Meghan," Purcell said.
McGowan started Centennial's scoring sequence with a hard drive along the end line from the right of the Scorpions goal.
Naylor stopped the shot with her foot, but the ball caromed about six feet in the air directly in front of her. Pressler, who played an outstanding second half, charged past an Oakland Mills defender and made a one-handed swipe at the ball. Ballgame.
"We practice that, but it comes down to ability," Purcell said. "Megan set it up and Beth was right there."
The Scorpions had just one chance after that, a penalty corner with seven minutes left. But Kaylor disrupted the play. Centennial then narrowly missed two more goals in the last five minutes. In all, the Eagles had nine penalty corners to Oakland Mills' five.
"They died in the (striking) circle," said Oakland Mills coach Chris Marsiglia, whose Scorpions fell to 2-4. "I thought my defense did well, but we need to finish on offense. Our big problem this year has been lack of intensity. Toward the end of the game we were hesitating."
There was no hesitation in Centennial in the second half.
"They get frustrated when they sputter, but they won one they needed to win," Purcell said.
"We've got some real potential, and these kids know that. They've got the talent. Desire is what it will take. You could see that desire in the second half."