By Nelson Coffin
St. Paul’s School for Girls has been hard to beat over the last two seasons, and showed why with a satisfying 3-0 shutout of Garrison Forest in Owings Mills on a balmy day in Owings Mills on Tuesday afternoon.
The Gators ran their record to 9-0-1 overall and a perfect 9-0 in conference with the victory, giving them the inside track to earn a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs until the finale on Nov. 4. They have not lost a match since bowing to an A Conference rival, Mercy, more than a year ago and have not succumbed to a conference foe since the 2015 championship match.
The Grizzlies fell to 2-7 and 2-6 in the B.
Playing on a smaller, grass field that somewhat hampered their speed, the visitors from nearby Brooklandville struck twice on goals by freshman Angelina Pino and junior Zari Hayes in the first five minutes of the second half and would have netted a third goal had it not been for a diving save by Grizzlie sophomore keeper Lexi Coldiron on sophomore Alex Pirisino’s skidding drive toward the far corner.
Later, a corner kick by St. Paul’s senior Tatum Teodori caromed off the far post, and could have easily been converted to a goal as well.
Pirisino had staked the defending conference champs to a 1-nil advantage in the sixth minute with help from freshman Christina Gagnon, and then tried to build the cushion against Coldiron, who came well off her line to snuff breakaways by Hayes and Gagon in the 22nd and 25th minutes, respectively.
Meanwhile, Garrison was doing its best to equalize, powering several free kicks toward St. Paul’s netminder Annie Schindler that were either gobbled up by the junior or sailed wide or high.
Junior forward Amanda Trattner, sophomore center midfielder Julia Owens and junior stopper Kaylan Silva all took turns at trying to solve Schindler from long range.
At the other end, Grizzlie freshman right back Keely Lavin prevented Hayes from tapping one in from close range after the Gator standout had slipped past Coldiron and was all alone in front of the goal.
That play helped keep the deficit at a single goal — until minutes 41 through 45 were owned by the Gators.
“Coach (Joie Gill) told us to stop playing direct balls over the top and to try to possess the ball more,” said St. Paul’s sophomore Laney Cornelius.
And, she added, that if the Gators can score, their backline (juniors Devan Conrad, Shelton Sawers and Sophia Hussain and sophomore Lizzy Pirisino and Schindler can keep the team on top.
After all, St. Paul’s has given up only three goals overall and just two against conference foes this fall.
Scoring is usually not a issue for the Gators.
“We do OK on grass,” Gill said. “But we like space on a bigger field to take advantage of our speed.”
After they trailed, 3-0, the Grizzlies could not muster enough chances to mount a credible comeback.
“It’s the story of our season,” Garrison Forest coach Ian Abrey said. “We have some good stuff, and then we have lapses, too. But I think we’re starting to hit our stride. It wasn’t quite there today, but I like how well we’ve been possessing the ball.”