By Nelson Coffin
The only team to beat defending A Conference champion Notre Dame Prep over the past two years took aim at the league runner-up when public school power Arundel opened the season at Garrison Forest on Wednesday afternoon.
And the Wildcats from talent-rich Anne Arundel County showed that they were serious about taking down another A Conference notable when they carried a 1-0 advantage into halftime of the showdown that featured the coaching debut of Malcolm Belin with the Grizzlies.
Sophomore Jillian Trout scored and was assisted by junior Hailey Kohlman to give the Wildcats the lead.
Fortunately for Garrison, senior Riley Patro took over by scoring less than 30 seconds into the second half and then assisted sophomore Dani Mendez for the go-ahead tally midway through the final frame of what turned out to be a 3-2 Grizzlie triumph.
“At halftime, the coaches told us that we needed someone to make something happen,” Patro said. “And I saw an opportunity. I think that gave us momentum to score the other goals.”
Mendez made it 3-1 in the late going on a feed from freshman Ella Kokinos, although Garrison still had to hang on for dear life after Arundel junior Nikki Seven put several touches on the ball as she ran parallel to the end line and whisked a shot past Grizzlie freshman goalie Alyssa Klebasko with just over a minute remaining in regulation.
The Wildcats still weren’t through, however, because with about 10 seconds remaining, Seven charged toward Klebasko on a breakaway before the rookie blocked the shot with her pads tp preserve the victory.
Patro felt confident as she watched the final play unfold that Klebasko, who finished with eight saves, would prevail.
“I knew she’d make the save,” Patro said. “I couldn’t score on her in the camps this summer. She had me so frustrated.”
“I’ve never had more faith in a goalie,” said Belin, who was an assistant for two years under former coach Traci Davis. “She lives for those moments.”
Belin said that he felt the pressure of taking over for Davis.
“I thought there was a lot of pressure as an assistant,” he said. “But it ratcheted up a couple notches when I became the head (coach).”
He said that he liked that his team showed “guts” in the second half after a slow start.
“It’s great to have a team that did exactly what we said they should do,” he added. “They weren’t afraid of the challenge. I’m not going to lie to you. It feels good to get that win.”
Arundel coach Carrie Vosburg was pleased with her team’s effort, especially considering that she had a first-time starter in the cage as well with Savannah Brooks, who finished with a game-high 11 saves.
“But Garrison is a really good team,” she said. “They were quicker to the 50-50 balls in the second half, and that hurt us.”