Centennial gets scare before winning

October 21, 1994|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Sun

They've looked invincible at times, simply dominating at others. With each new game, however, the burden of staying unbeaten seems to grow heavier for the Centennial Eagles field hockey team.

"I told them the other day, the longer they go on undefeated, the harder it will be to stay that way," said coach Gail Purcell.

Yesterday against host Atholton, the third-ranked Eagles put her words to the test.

Though they kept their record perfect with a 1-0 win over the Raiders in a Howard County League game, to Purcell, their effort was far from perfection.

"It was an ugly game for us," said Purcell, whose team was outshot, 8-6. "We played one of our best games last Friday [a 4-0 win over Hammond], and it's hard to crescendo like that, then come back and do it again.

"We were lethargic the whole game, and we escaped it narrowly."

After a scoreless first half, forward Emily Ward scored the game's only goal off a penalty corner with 17:45 left.

Link Liz Sturm sent the corner to Ward, who fired a hard shot off a defender and into the goal from 10 yards.

"She just hit it out to me and I drove it into the opposite corner," said Ward, Centennial's leader in both goals and assists.

Ward said that afternoon pep rally may have drained some energy from the Eagles (10-0 overall, 5-0 in the league), who looked lethargic at times.

But she also said the pressure of staying unbeaten is starting to show.

"It's getting kind of scary now," she said. "Each game we win makes it harder to win the next time."

For Atholton (5-3-2, 2-2-1), the problem wasn't playing with intensity. It was putting the ball in the goal.

The Raiders had possession most of the second half, at one point coming up empty on four penalty corners in a two-minute span.

"The kids played well," said Atholton coach Carol Stevens, whose team was coming off a 1-0 double-overtime loss to Wilde Lake on Tuesday. "Today's game gave us a little of a challenge mentally, and I think the kids were up to it.

"I felt they dominated most of the game."

For a team that has outscored its opponents, 23-4 -- including seven shutouts -- only Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills stand in the way of a perfect regular season for Centennial.

And if Purcell's words count for anything, expect the Eagles to be more on their game for those contests.

Said Purcell: "I would venture to say after this exhibition that they won't play like this again."

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