Eaton comes up big down the stretch in Blues' 1-0 win


Sienna Li scores on a rebound late in first half

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - St. Marys Hayley Stutzman fights for a ball in the midfield against Greshams Jessie Stone during the Blues 1-0 win Tuesday at Buckman Field.

The clock was ticking toward 10 minutes to play when St. Mary’s Academy goalie Nesha Eaton stared down a 1-on-1 chance against Gresham striker Kyleigh Jandro, leaving her feet to make a diving save at the center of the goal.

Little did Eaton know the level of difficulty would only go up, as the Gophers pressed to net the equalizer that never came Tuesday, as the Blues won 1-0 at Buckman Field.

The Gophers made another rush at the net with 6:28 to play, as a long ball was played into the box and three blue shirts surged forward. Eaton came off the line, found her way through the crowd and went into the air to pull down the dangerous ball on one bounce.

“I was surprised to see all those players coming at me, but the ball was in the air and my immediate reaction was to pull it down — to keep the ball safe,” Eaton said. “You get into a zone and you just keep calm.”

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - St. Marys defender Victoria Kirkland makes a throw-in during Tuesdays 1-0 home win over Gresham.

The Blues nearly put the match out of reach moments later when Sienna Li and Amelia Aron combined to make a run down the right side, with Aron setting up for a blast from 15 yards. Gresham goalie Melissa Smith held her ground, putting her gloves out in front of her to deflect the shot away.

The clock ticked under a minute to play, and it appeared the Blues were ready to seal the victory after being awarded a late goal kick. But Gresham’s Alexa Cooper tracked down the ball in front of the Blues’ bench and headed it forward to teammate Bailey Allen, who made a quick run down the edge of the 18-yard box before crossing the ball into a crowd at the mouth of the goal.

The Gophers’ Amber Peschka lifted her cleat and deflected the ball toward the net, only to watch Eaton make a quick lunge to the turf, covering it up just in front of the goal line.

“Our work rate was lacking,” Gresham coach Kathy Childress said. “We got after it over those last five minutes, but we need to do that for the whole game. On the ball we were working hard, but we need more effort away from the ball.”

St. Mary’s scored the game’s only goal in the closing minutes of the first half, when Emily Lang dinged the crossbar and Li put away the rebound from close range.

“I saw Camille (Carlisle) coming in at the same time, and I was worried about running into her, but I just went on instinct and was able to put the ball in,” Li said. “This was a hard-fought, well-won game tonight.”

The Blues had a chance to add to their lead moments later when Kathleen McIntyre took a free kick near the sideline, and Li deflected a header over the top just before the halftime buzzer sounded.

Although much of the game was played in the midfield and in the St. Mary’s end, the Blues defense did not surrender many shots through the first 30 minutes of the second half.

“Gresham put up 10 goals in their first two matches, so I was a little worried how we’d handle that,” St. Mary’s coach Rob Warnell said. “We played much better in the second half. We defended more than I would like, but we had better control of the ball.”

The win puts St. Mary’s (2-0-0) atop the MHC standings along with Central Catholic, heading into the Blues' road match Thursday night at reigning co-champion Barlow.

View a photo gallery of this match at …