Catholic tops Saints, 2-0, for 8th win No. 1 Cubs dominate after scoring as first half ends

Girls soccer

September 26, 1997|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Natalie Loftus has been a catalyst for No. 1 Catholic all season, and the Cubs sure needed her yesterday.

The senior midfielder set up a Nicole Brooks goal with 55 seconds left in the first half to spark the Cubs past No. 4 St. Mary's 2-0 at Weems-Whelan Field in Annapolis.

The showdown between the only teams still unbeaten in Catholic League A Division play was also a rematch of last year's tournament championship, a 1-0 Saints' upset that knocked the Cubs from the top of the rankings.

Early in yesterday's game, it appeared that St. Mary's (6-3-1, 4-1 in the Catholic League) might again have the edge on the Cubs (8-0, 5-0), who are ranked fifth in the nation in USA Today.

The Saints were quicker to the ball and had the Cubs retreating for much of the first half.

Winning most of the midfield balls and moving up with smooth passing, the Saints found a few openings, but they could not keep the pressure on and they could not finish. Cubs keeper Corrine Butcher saved two of three Saints first-half shots.

As time wore down in the half, Loftus had seen enough. She battled two defenders on the left and on her second pass in found Brooks, positioned about 10 yards away on the far post.

"Actually, I didn't see her," said Loftus. "When I got the ball, I said, 'I'm taking this ball to goal, and we will score on it.' I was just determined. When I put it in the first time, it came back out. I put it back in and, thank God, Nicole was there. She always is."

Brooks, still recovering from a separated shoulder suffered in last Thursday's game, had plenty of time to settle the pass and tap in her 14th goal of the fall.

Saints back Kellie Thompson, who had done a terrific job of containing Brooks, got caught between two open Cubs on the play.

"I slid to step through the ball, but it went past me, and Nicole was back there to kick it in."

Thompson knew exactly how she wanted to mark Brooks,

because she had helped shut down the All-Metro forward in last year's tournament championship.

"I played tight on her and physically, and she didn't do anything," said Thompson of the title game in which Brooks managed only two shots. "I was hoping to do the same thing this game, but they got numbers up, and she got an easy goal."

The Saints, who outshot the Cubs 7-4, had a few chances in the second half, but Alison Healey added an insurance goal on the Cubs' only shot of the half. With two defenders on her, Healey maneuvered an opening from 22 yards straight out.

The Cubs also had key contributions from Becky Bieneman, Allison Merkle and Butcher, who finished with four saves and batted away a Saints corner kick late in the second half.

"This team is one word -- guts," said Catholic coach Jerry Dieter. "They've met every challenge. They've played a lot of good teams, including this one, and they've held it together. That's what this team is all about."

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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