A little bit of Jessica Bradford and a lot of defense helped North Carroll score a big early-season victory yesterday.
Bradford scored late in the first half, and No. 8-ranked North Carroll showed its defense in the second half as the visiting Panthers edged No. 5 Francis Scott Key, 1-0, in a Carroll County game.
North Carroll (2-0, 1-0) relied heavily on defense in the second half, especially in the closing minutes. Clinging to the one-goal lead, the Panthers let Key (1-1, 0-1) push them but only so far.
Key outshot North Carroll, 13-6, and kept pressure on throughout the second half.
North Carroll coach Denean Koontz was concerned, because the Eagles came up with 15 of their 16 corners in the second half.
In fact, the Eagles had five corner hits in the game's last two minutes, getting the ball near goalie Devan Bosley (six saves) several times only to have her boot it away or her defenders clear it.
"Our corner defense and our goalie withstood a lot of pressure," said Koontz. "But in the second half, we were playing not to lose. We've got to play to win."
Koontz's concern was that, even though her team played stellar defense, it gave the Eagles too many chances.
Kim Mathias nearly broke through the Panthers' defense in the final minutes, but the Key came up empty.
"We definitely had our opportunities," said Key coach Mindi Wagner, who also liked Laura Thompson's defensive work. "They did a nice job on defense."
Koontz praised the defensive work of Katie Holmes, Katie Walker, Jen Tarlton, Meredith Gill and Erin German, all of whom played well throughout, especially in the closing minutes.
The Eagles had to push in the second half, because Bradford again had a big game for the Panthers. She scored two goals in North Carroll's 3-1 season-opening victory over Liberty earlier in the week, and the trend continued yesterday.
Bradford's third goal of the year came with 7: 10 left in the first half. Katie Mullinix made a perfect pass on a penalty corner, and Bradford fired a shot past Key goalie Becky Arnold (six saves).
Koontz said before the season that she hoped Bradford, Mullinix and others could fill the void that graduation left on offense. In addition, the tough early schedule with Liberty, Key and others would provide a good test for the offense.
The Panthers also had pointed to this game also because the Eagles beat them last year.
"This was probably one of the bigger wins for us," said Bradford. "It's early in the season, but this was a big victory."