Cape Henry edges Lady Saints

Published 9:24 pm Thursday, October 2, 2008

Perhaps it was a positive sign that there were plenty of tears shed Thursday by the Nansemond-Suffolk Saints in the aftermath of their 1-0 loss to visiting Cape Henry Collegiate. In previous seasons, the Saints might not have been as convinced that they belonged on the same field as Cape Henry, a traditionally strong Tidewater Conference foe.

But after pinning a 2-1 loss on the host Dolphins last month during a nonconference game, NSA’s players entered Thursday’s tilt knowing they could hang with their red-clad opponents. The difference between the games, said Saints’ coach Kathleen Hotte, was that her team’s effort wasn’t quite as thorough the second time around.

“In order to beat a team like Cape Henry, everyone’s got to play their `A’ game,” Hotte said. “We had about 90 percent of our team at that level today, but that wasn’t enough.”

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It was awfully close, however. After the Dolphins’ Kristen Meredith scored in the 10th minute, it appeared the Saints would forge a tie when Katharina Kleis charged up the middle of the field and dribbled through the Cape Henry defense midway through the first half.

Goalkeeper Julie LaSalvia came out to challenge the German exchange student and was caught out of position. LaSalvia watched helplessly as Kleis nudged the ball past her and towards the left post, but the touch was a tad long and Kleis caught up a stride over the end line, unable to capitalize on an open net.

Kleis “is real fluid and has been a great addition to the team,” said Hotte, who only discovered the junior was coming out for the team a week before the first game. “She sees the field, where her opponents are and where she has to move the ball to keep our attack going.”

That vision is one reason Hotte has moved Kleis back to take an increasing number of NSA’s free hits. But another factor is that the Saints have struggled to consistently make solid contact and move out of their own end.

“We work hard to get the ball and we have the momentum,” Hotte said. “But then we get a free hit and we give it right back to the other team.”

NSA dropped to 3-6 overall and 0-2 in conference play, but has four conference games remaining to jockey for the best possible seeding in the conference tournament, which begins Oct. 28.

“We’re playing beautiful hockey right now and I’m really proud of the girls,” Hotte said. “We have a lot of the season left to do some damage.”