When sophomore Melissa Nelson was called up from the South River junior varsity a little more than two weeks ago, Coach Katie Corcoran had hoped she would add a certain element of fearlessness and an added dose of speed to the Seahawks' attack heading into the playoffs.
Sure enough, everything expected of Nelson was on display last night, as she scored two goals to lead 10th-ranked South River to a 3-1 victory over visiting Chesapeake in a Maryland 4A East Region semifinal field hockey game.
"She's goal-hungry," Corcoran said. "That's something we need. We need girls to finish. She's confident and she doesn't back down from anyone. She doesn't care if there are juniors or seniors playing against her. She's confident in her play."
Nelson was a key in a high-pressure offense that fired 14 shots on goal and won 12 penalty corners. Her goal late in the first half ultimately shifted momentum in the reigning 4A champions' favor for good. With 9.7 seconds left in the half, Nelson raced past Chesapeake's defense, took a feed from midfielder Molly Gregoire and slapped in the game's final score.
"I was standing in the right spot at the right time," Nelson said. "Somebody hit it and I just tapped it in. It's a team effort."
Nelson's timing certainly was uncanny, especially after Chesapeake (11-4) showed signs of mounting a comeback. The Cougars, who had struggled to muster much offense early on, finally got on board with 3 minutes 25 seconds left in the half when Angela Yannone scored off a penalty corner to make it 2-1.
But Nelson's second goal made matters considerably easier for South River's defense, which clamped down in the second half. The Seahawks (13-3-1) did not allow a shot on goal after halftime and yielded three for the entire game.
"We had a lot more confidence after [Nelson's second goal], because we knew that we were up by a couple of goals," senior defender Kelly Patterson said. "But we kept playing like we were losing and played our hardest."