by Tom Utescher
The ill effects of postponements caused by the rains of April caught up with the Mount St. Joseph Academy lacrosse team in early May.
The scheduling changes put the Magic in the position of playing three important league games in a row without a single practice in between – not a good scenario for a young team like the Mount.
The last contest in the string was an Athletic Association of Catholic Academies semifinal match that had the third-seeded Mount going on the road to face the second seed, the Golden Bears of Merion Mercy Academy.
The teams had met at Merion the day before, making up a rained-out regular season game, and Merion rolled 16-5. The following day, the Magic dug themselves a 9-1 hole in the first half, and even with a much better effort after the intermission they ended up with a 12-6 defeat.
A week earlier, Mount St. Joe defeated top-ranked Villa Maria (8-7 in overtime) for the first time in the memory of any of the current players. On Saturday, May 7, the Hurricanes avenged that loss on their home field, handling the Magic, 13-6.
Naturally, there was no practice the following day, Mother’s Day, so the Mounties had to go right into their back-to-back league bouts last Monday and Tuesday. The Magic had lost to Merion by just a single goal in early April, but the Golden Bears won more convincingly in the two meetings last week.
After Tuesday’s tilt, first-year MSJ coach Jenna Washabaugh observed, “It was unfortunate that a lot of the mistakes we made yesterday we made again today, mainly because we weren’t able to practice the things we needed to change. It’s hard to do it just by verbally telling them what they need to do. You need to put it in motion on the field, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
In the league’s regular season, the lone loss for Villa (11-1) had come against the Mount, and Merion, which lost home and away to Villa, took the second seed with a 10-2 record. The Magic went into the playoffs at 9-3, and after their semifinal loss they were 11-6 overall.
On Tuesday the Magic had the ball up on attack at the outset, but it was Merion (12-4) which scored first, striking about four minutes in. Things snowballed from there, and with six-and-a-half minutes elapsed, the Golden Bears led, 4-0.
“We needed to start with a bang today, and it was difficult when we started slowly,” Washabaugh pointed out. “They had a lot of assisted goals, and dealing with those off-the-ball cuts was one of the things we would’ve worked on had we been able to practice.”
A feed from behind the cage by junior Burke Brabson set up the icebreaker by Mount senior Melissa Gavin with 17:07 remaining in the first half, but it was all Merion the rest of the way. The hosts continued to slice and dice the MSJ defense with precise interior passing and quickly-released shots, and led by eight goals at the intermission.
Mount senior Stevie Wells looped in from the left to score the visitors’ second goal just 37 seconds into the second half. She finished the game with two goals and Brabson had one goal and three assists, with single goals added by Gavin, and sophomores Olivia Gannon and Jane Black.
Unable to score consecutively until they netted the last two goals of the game, the Magic couldn’t make meaningful inroads into Merion’s lead.
“We did play a lot better in the second half,” Washabaugh said. “We needed a spark and we got it, but it was a little too late.”
Starting sophomore goalie Alex Lista made six stops for Mount St. Joe, then senior Gabby Rounbehler came in with 20 minutes to go and recorded two saves the rest of the way. Junior keeper Cali Guilday collected 14 saves for Merion Mercy.
Washabaugh was glad to finally have some practice time coming up before the start of the PIAA District 1 tournament.
“We’ve had three rough games,” said the Mount mentor, “but we have to recognize that that does not make us a poor team. We just have to snap that string and make a fresh start in the district tournament.”