Kellenberg's Christina Akalski, right, gets pressured by Sacred Heart Academy's...

Kellenberg's Christina Akalski, right, gets pressured by Sacred Heart Academy's Emily Parush in the second half of a CHSAA varsity girls soccer game. Credit: James Escher, 2011

Kellenberg knew what was coming. A scoreless game 54 minutes into Wednesday's CHSAA girls soccer match with St. John the Baptist came as no surprise to the Firebirds. The team had prepared for over a week for a tough, physical game with the Cougars. And that's exactly what it was.

A hard-fought 1-0 win was Kellenberg's eighth of the season.

As the second-half clock wound down toward 15 minutes, Kellenberg (8-0-1) struck. Christina Akalski, dancing along the end line, fed a pass to Carly Montgomery on the far post. Montgomery, who was 6 yards away, knocked the ball into the net, breaking a scoreless tie.

"It was exactly what we wanted," Kellenberg coach Elizabeth Finn said of the goal.

Montgomery's score provided a spark for a team that had been begging for a break for 55 minutes. "They were ecstatic," Finn said of the atmosphere following the goal. "We were waiting to score and once we put it in, it was a big relief."

The goal represented a certain element of planning on Kellenberg's part. After a first half in which the ball barely moved out of midfield, Finn instructed her team to change their offensive approach.

"We wanted to make a conscious effort to go wide, get into our grove, and score," Finn said of her halftime strategizing.

It wasn't surprising that the play started on the foot of Akalski, either. "She oozes soccer and loves to play," Finn said. "She has a passion to play and a passion to succeed."

Kellenberg goalie Paige Salmon made 10 saves in the win, including a few one-on-one stops in the first half. "She came up with five unbelievable saves," Finn said. "She took some physical hits and made saves all over."

Crucial saves and timely passing -- a fine recipe for a win.

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