In a battle of two teams looking for consistent goal scoring, Thomas Johnson found an answer just in the nick of time.
With under two minutes to play, freshman midfielder Jennifer Lombardo sent a ball into the Oakdale goal box. It slipped past the goalkeeper and a defender before finding its way onto the foot of Bradleigh Bell.
The junior midfielder, who had positioned herself perfectly as the attack unfolded, sent the ball into the goal to lift TJ to a 1-0 victory over the Bears in girls soccer.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just sort of did it,” Bell said. “Jennifer made a great pass, and I was just happy I was able to finish [the play].”
These timely and workmanlike efforts are likely what TJ (1-1), the Class 3A runner-up last season, will rely on to generate offense this season.
Sara Hohn, the leading scorer in Frederick County last season (19 goals, eight assists), graduated, and the Patriots will rely on several players to pick up the slack instead of any one individual.
They have gotten three goals from three different players through two games so far, and that trend is likely to continue.
In Friday’s 3-2 loss to Mount Hebron, whom they beat 3-1 in the state semifinals last November, the Patriots received goals from freshman midfielder Chase Borntreger on a penalty kick and senior captain Elaina Kluttz.
“We’ll see. There is a lot still to come,” TJ coach Adam Weinstein said. “Our numbers are small [17 on the roster]. So, everyone is fighting for playing time. It’s a tight group. It’s like an intimate group. So, that I really like a lot.”
Oakdale (2-1) finds itself in a fairly similar position.
The Bears lost the second leading scorer in the county, Kiersten Yuhas [17 goals and 10 assists], as well as Megan Conner [five goals, 21 assists], Alyssa Martin [nine goals, nine assists] and goalkeeper Kaitlyn Burns [0.57 goals-against average, eight shutouts] to graduation.
They do have striker Sam Foster (12 goals, four assists) back, as well as fellow senior Lauren Truelove to anchor the defense.
Over the weekend, the Bears beat Brunswick 2-0 and Mountain Ridge 3-0 in a season-opening tournament in Frostburg.
“I love working with this group,” Bears coach Aric Canonico said. “The chemistry is already there. They do anything we ask. We have to figure out a way to generate offense and get better every day.”
Oakdale and TJ played a fairly even match until the goal in the final minutes. Each team threatened for very brief periods, but struggled to generate a great scoring chance. Most of the game was played in the middle of the field.
Foster was saddled with a yellow card early in the second half, which hindered her aggressiveness for Oakdale. If she had received another, she would have had to sit out Thursday’s home game with Urbana.
“It might be a different Oakdale Bears team that is out there this season. But it also might be indicative of how we have played in the past,” Canonico said, referring the school’s tradition of strong defense. “I lost a couple of goal scorers [to graduation]. But I haven’t lost any talent. So, we are certainly solid and dangerous.”