New Liberty coach Lee Kestler admitted he didn't know a whole lot about Mount Hebron's soccer team before the teams squared off yesterday. But he was certain of at least one thing: He couldn't let Vikings midfielder Julie Napolitano dominate the game.
"I didn't know nothing about their team except that girl's name," Kestler said of Napolitano, who is considered one of the Baltimore area's best players. "I said, [if] she doesn't touch the ball as much as she wants, she can't do everything she's going to do."
Turned out Kestler was only half right. Napolitano's touches were somewhat limited, but that didn't stop her from scoring a key second-half goal that helped No. 10-ranked Mount Hebron to a come-from-behind, 2-1 road win.
"We hadn't really heard much about them, but they came out and played hard," Napolitano said. "We were a little frustrated in the first half, but I think we knew it was just a matter of time until we scored."
Early on, it looked as if Liberty might be the second Carroll County team in less than a week to knock off a ranked team to open the season. Westminster struck the first blow by beating No. 4 Notre Dame Prep, 2-0, on Tuesday, and when Lions midfielder Megan Voight stole a pass and trickled a shot past Vikings keeper Kaitlin Porter 10 minutes into the game, it looked like Liberty might snag the second big upset.
"We came out knowing that we didn't have anything to lose," said Liberty forward Kelly Fiorani, who gave Mount Hebron trouble all game. "As seniors, we were pretty pumped up, knowing that Mount Hebron was a team we really wanted to beat."
Momentum clearly shifted Mount Hebron's direction after intermission, however, as the Vikings put an extra player on attack, looking to shake up a stagnant offense. Napolitano appeared to tie the score in the 54th minute, but officials waved off the goal because of an offside penalty.
Still, Mount Hebron kept attacking, and the effort paid off when Liberty was called for a hand ball just outside the top-left of its own penalty area, giving Napolitano a chance at a direct kick on goal. Her kick sailed just above the crossbar, apparently another chance gone awry, but Liberty was called for encroachment and given a yellow card for failing to stay 10 yards from the dead ball. On her second try, Napolitano easily blasted the ball into the high, near corner, tying the score.
The floodgates opened from there and the Vikings' Lindsay Dutch found Kelyn Laws on a beautiful cross in front of net for the game-winner.