O’Connell senior midfielder Kara DeGuisto tried to stay patient but with each blast over the net and shot just off the mark outside the goal post in Wednesday’s girls’ soccer game against No. 2 Spalding, the task became a bit tougher.
The fourth-ranked Knights spent a good portion of the opening 75 minutes on attack, consistently threatening as DeGuisto and senior forward Morgan Reuther created chance after chance with smart runs and creative passing.
Spalding struck first on senior Laikyn Duffey’s 76th minute goal but DeGuisto finally broke through three minutes later, running onto a head ball from Reuther before finishing the breakaway. Playing on her Arlington private school’s new home turf field, DeGuisto salvaged a 1-1 tie for the Knights on an afternoon when the offense excelled at creating opportunities and struggled to finish.
“After they scored, it made us wake up,” said DeGuisto, an Elon commit. “We definitely had to push for the goal to at least tie. That was kind of our wake-up call about what we had to do.”
Playing a flat back four defensive alignment for the first time under Coach Bob Dieterle in his 11th season, Spalding — runner-up in the IAAM-A last season — hung tough with O’Connell (0-0-1) constantly around the net. The Cavaliers (0-0-1) earned the chance to grab an impressive road victory when it converted a late counterattack.
Sophomore Sarah Ensor dribbled the ball down the left end line, drew out the goalie and sent a pass across the goal mouth. Hustling in from her wide midfield spot, Duffey arrived at the perfect time to rip a low shot into the open net.
“The last 20 minutes I thought we really had started to dominate play,” said Dieterle, whose team was supposed to begin its season at a tournament in Indiana over the weekend but had the trip called off because of bad weather. “We were starting to find cracks in their defense.”
Spalding junior goalie Cassidy Babin (seven saves) stopped a pair of quick O’Connell opportunities after that, but the Knights’ persistence eventually paid off. In the 79th minute, senior goalie Ashley Cox (five saves) sent a long punt that found Reuther’s head.
The Virginia recruit picked up an assist when DeGuisto sprinted into space and scored the equalizer about a minute before the referee whistled full-time. Following WCAC rules for regular season games, the teams did not play overtime.
Afterward, O’Connell Coach Alberto Starace said his team will need to better capitalize on its opportunities to achieve better results at this weekend’s McDonogh Invitational where the Knights are slated to play a pair of highly regarded teams, Mercy (Baltimore) and Pennington (N.J.).
“We’ve just got to work on the shooting,” Starace said. “Morgan played some great balls in. Kara played some great balls in. My top players — you saw the one-two punch and boom they got a goal when they needed it, but we resorted to waking up after they had scored and you can’t wait like that.”