At one point late in the first half of a showdown in Alexandria between ISL rivals No. 1 St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes and No. 2 Georgetown Visitation, the Cubs’ Ana Hagerup earned a shooting opportunity and charged toward Saints goalkeeper Gussie Johns. With space but no defenders between her and the crease, the Cubs’ second-leading scorer fired a laser — only to watch Johns flip her stick onto the shot and knock it back to the Saints’ defense.

The defense didn’t allow would-be Visitation scorers to sneak near Johns’s net untouched very often Tuesday afternoon, but when they did she provided stunning saves time and again. Johns and the Saints’ defense held the Cubs (8-5, 1-1 ISL-AA) to their fewest goals all season in a 12-3 victory.

“She’s amazing, she’s a brick wall back there,” said midfielder Olivia Mikkelsen, who scored three goals. “It’s great for team morale, and gets our energy up to go on the attack and hopefully get another goal.”

As memorable and crucial as Johns’s saves were, she didn’t have to make many as the defense around her buckled down on the Cubs’ offense, which was held to single-digit goals just one other time this season.

“I thought that was the best defensive game we’ve had all year,” Johns said. “Teams are going to score — especially a team like Visitation, with so many great offensive players. But our defense did a great job of the little things: fronting cutters, making sure that second or third slide is there, and really communicating.”

Saints Coach Kathy Jenkins said the defense has gotten better each game this season — an observation given weight by the fact that St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (18-0, 4-0 ISL-AA) has allowed opponents to score more than five goals once in 18 games.

“We spend every day working on defense. Every one of my coaches is defensive-minded,” Jenkins said. “And having Gussie running it and constantly talking to them, she’s just superb.”

The defense held Visitation scoreless through the entire first half, and goals weren’t hard to come by for the Saints, either. Mikkelson and sophomore Ellie Carson had three goals each, while freshman Zoe Belodeau and junior Ellie Majure chipped in two each. Balanced scoring is another staple of this year’s Saints squad, along with a team-oriented, man-to-man defense that baffled the Cubs.

“I think particularly in this game, we really worked as a unit, had each other’s back, there was no individual play,” said senior Sophie Davidson, who chipped in a goal. “When we make a defensive stop, that’s almost more exciting than a goal.”