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Patriots have nerve to nip Hubs

September 16, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Becky Thompson was a bundle of nerves, but it only took one of them to make the difference for the Thomas Johnson girls soccer team.

One minute, TJ's sophomore midfielder was battling butterflies in her stomach about the pressure situation she faced. The next, she collected a fly ball on her foot and scored the winning goal.

Thompson darted in from her right-side position to beat North Hagerstown goalkeeper Heather McCleaf to the ball and turned the opportunity into a sudden goal in the sixth minute of overtime to lift Thomas Johnson to a 1-0 victory over the Hubs at the North Hagerstown athletic complex.

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While the move was the pill Thomas Johnson needed to win the game, it was the antacid the Patriots needed to calm the pressure of the situation.

"Oh my gosh, this was the most nerve wracking game I have ever been in," Thompson said. "It was nerve wracking for all of us and I just wanted to end it."

She picked just the right time.

Kristin Kremers centered a pass to within 10 yards of the goal mouth, forcing McCleaf to charge out to try and make a save to end Thomas Johnson's onslaught.

Thompson broke in from the far right wing to beat McCleaf to the ball by a split second. She bumped it to the left to get behind McCleaf and in front of the wide-open goal for the easy conversion and the victory.

"When I saw the ball I said 'Well, this is it. I'm going to sprint my life out,'" Thompson said. "It was now or never. Once I got the ball and got past the goalie, it was open."

Thompson's winning shot came after walking away dejectedly following a long-distance attempt that bounced off the goal's crossbar in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

The score in the 86th minute of the game ended a physical game which saw many opportunities - and open shots - missed.

The two teams jostled each other heading for loose balls. Thomas Johnson got the high quantity of chances while North had the higher quality ones, but neither could quantify them.

Thomas Johnson (4-1) had many passes thread the seam of North's defense for chances at open shots. North (3-2), meanwhile, only unloaded 14 shots, with seven of them glancing off goal posts.

"They countered real quickly on a ball that went over the top," North coach Rick Aleshire said. "She got there a split second before our goalie ... it was indefensible."

It was a finish which was almost commonplace for the Patriots.

"That has been the story of our season," Thomas Johnson coach Jason Hoffman said. "We are going to keep playing this way until we learn how to finish. (Thompson) did what you hoped she would do, to go in there and take control. We had three players in position for the ball, but two of the girls went in the opposite direction and she went for it."

North just missed winning the game two minutes earlier when Hilliary Grove tried to loft in a goal off a 35-yard direct kick. Grove's shot was well out of the reach of TJ goalie Caitlin Marsh, but the ball glanced off the upper left corner of the goal.

"Last year, they hit all the goalposts and we won 1-0," Aleshire said. "This time we did, and they won. We like these games. They get us ready for our conference run. We played Middletown tough and we played TJ tough and we are ready to make the run."

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