On a night when the visiting Leonardtown High School girls soccer team appeared to control possessions, especially late in the second half, it was North Point which benefited from two stellar set pieces to earn an emotional 2-1 victory in the season opener for both Southern Maryland Athletic Conference clubs.
North Point (1-0 overall) had primarily been on the defensive throughout the first half as Leonardtown sophomore midfielder Isabella Dever and forwards Julianna Schilling, Emily Snyder and Megan St. Laurent applied steady pressure to the Eagles defense, forcing junior goalkeeper Sydney Johnson to make several tough, diving saves.
During the middle stages of the first half, North Point junior midfielder Jordan Felton made her presence known with her superb dribbling and passing skills and finally she was awarded a direct free kick. With just over 14 minutes remaining in the first half, Felton drilled a crisp, high shot that just eluded the outstretched fingertips of Leonardtown senior goalkeeper Hannah Bello and into the back of the net to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
“I knew when I hit it that it was going in,” said Felton, who has narrowed her college choices down to a trio of NCAA Division I programs, the University of Miami (Fla.), Florida State University and the University of Georgia. “It just felt great when it left my foot. It was great to finally beat them because they had beaten us the last two years in the opener.”
North Point took the 1-0 lead into the locker room at intermission, but Leonardtown emerged with a vengeance to start the second half.
Schilling, a sophomore, delivered a stellar centering pass, then junior Alyssa Russell drilled a high shot past Johnson to bring the Raiders even at 1 just over a minute into the second half. But that proved to be the visitors’ lone tally of the evening.
Less than five minutes later, following another Felton free kick that was deflected aside by a Leonardtown defender in the box, the Eagles capitalized on another set play.
Sophomore Gabby Rodriguez sent a high corner kick into the box and De’janea Hicks headed it past Bello to put the hosts ahead 2-1 roughly six minutes into the half.
“We work on those set pieces a lot in practice,” North Point head coach Kiante Webb said. “Gabby is really good at sending the ball into the box and then it’s up to one of our attackers to get to it. This was a great game against a really good team. We knew this was going to be a tough, tough game.”
Webb and his players, however, must have felt as though the remaining 30-plus minutes took several hours to complete. Leonardtown spent much of the remainder in the Eagles’ side of the field and Dever, Schilling and Karina Minnich each had genuine scoring chances that were either denied by Johnson or eluded the target belatedly.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, Dever clearly had the Raiders’ best scoring chance of the night when her shot from 15 yards out found the narrow gap just above the soccer crossbar and parallel football crossbar just above it. With just less than four minutes to play, Dever worked her way free for a shot that hooked past the Johnson and left of the left post.
“They played us really tough, but we had out chances,” Dever said. “I thought we did a much better job controlling possessions in the second half than we did in the first half. Their goalie made some good saves. We probably need to change a few formations before our next game. But we’re still hopeful that we can have a successful season. This was just the first game, we’ll bounce back.”
Leonardtown is next scheduled to be in the River Hill High School tournament in Howard County today and Saturday. North Point is slated to return to action at 6 tonight versus Calvert.