By Nelson Coffin
The Mount de Sales soccer squad did what John Carroll was unable to do by making the most of its scoring opportunities in a 3-1 non-conference victory Tuesday afternoon in Catonsville
Led by Grace Gower, the B Conference Sailors (8-1) were much more efficient in the final third when opportunities arose to claim their eighth straight triumph while the A Conference Patriots’ modest two-game winning streak was snapped.
The talented striker assisted freshman midfielder Caroline Sloop’s gorgeous blast in the 15th minute to give Mount de Sales an early lead and then converted senior midfielder Grace Flynn’s feed for a 2-0 bulge with 21:01 remaining in the match.
Gower also notched the final goal with 3:49 left in the match on an assist from junior midfielder Cassidy Burdette to restore the margin after John Carroll senior striker Nia Christopher had sliced the deficit in half on a rocket into the corner just 18 seconds after Gower’s first tally.
Gower, who now has 10 goals this season and 59 in a stellar career, steered a postgame interview more toward her communication skills rather than on her ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
“I feel like I’m in more of a leadership role this season,” she said. “I’m really trying to communicate with my teammates, but with a lot of positivity. I think that has made a big difference this year.”
Gower added that she is more interested in coming out on top rather than adding to personal stats.
“A lot of times it depends on how the game’s going,” she said. “My job isn’t just to score. It’s also to make sure we score as a team.”
Mount de Sales coach Dave Manser said that Gower has been a force ever since she donned a Mount de Sales uniform as a freshman.
She has already earned B Conference All-Star laurels as a sophomore and a junior.
“She’s really been on a tear lately,” Manser said, noting her most recent game-winner came in a 1-0 decision over Gerstell Academy last week.
He also lauded a defense that bent slightly but never snapped against Christopher and an explosive John Carroll offense that has produced the second-most goals in the A Conference this fall.
Christopher not only scored the lone goal for the Patriots (5-5), she consistently made dangerous runs and often set up teammates for chances.
Her pass to freshman forward Meghann Kalthof produced a shot on a breakaway late in the period that senior keeper Megan Matsko (7 saves) adroitly smothered to deny the equalizer.
“It’s insane up top — we have so many strikers,” John Carroll coach Hayley Howe said. “But today was the fourth loss when we’ve outshot our opponent (16 to 14). Give Mount de Sales credit because they packed it in, played five in the back, and stuck to their game plan.”
Even so, with seniors Moira Connelley, Morgan Trumbull, Paige Rivers and Claire Nilan, juniors Alexis Boyko and Burdette and freshman Erin Antone holding down the fort in front of Matsko, the Sailors stayed afloat despite the pressure exerted on them.
Rivers, at center-mid, has been the key to allowing only three goals this season, Manser said.
“She get the ball out of the air, she knows when to push forward, she makes tough tackles,” he said. “She’s had a phenomenal year for us.”