by Tom Utescher
It’s back to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AAA state tournament for the 17-1 Mount St. Joseph Academy field hockey team. The 2010 PA semifinalists won their first three games in the District 1 tourney last week, reaching the semifinal round while also assuring themselves a place among the six squads from the district that will advance to the big statewide stickfest.
Going into Districts as the seventh seed with a 14-1 record that included a season split with Class AA top seed Villa Maria, the Magic opened with a 2-0 victory over number 26 Norristown High School on Monday. Going past 23rd seed Bayard Rustin on Wednesday, 3-0, the Magic then survived a rousing fight with number 18 Spring-Ford on Friday, winning 2-1. As the higher seed in each clash, the Mount hosted all of last week’s games; the action moves to neutral sites for the semifinals and finals.
Norristown goalie Eliana Gilette is having a great year (one of the few things the Mount knew about the Eagles), but on Monday the Magic made her look even better than she is. They converted only twice out of their many opportunities in the circle, both on corner restarts and in real time play.
Fortunately, the Mount goals came relatively early in the contest, so despite their frustration on offense later in the game, they were still holding a two-point lead. Freshman Chrissy Pascali punched in the first goal from near the left post, her momentum carrying her into the cage right after the ball. After a shot by Anne Burgoyne was blocked in front of the goal, junior classmate Allie Waters closed in to finish the play for the second Mount marker. Now down 2-0, Norristown called time-out with 12:10 remaining in the first half, and the Eagles did not give up another goal after they returned to the field.
For Wednesday’s match the host Magic were able to gain access to Chestnut Hill College’s artificial turf Victory Field, but some ill-fortune visited them as well when a hard-hit ball struck Pascali in the forearm during the pre-game warm-up. She started the contest and once again furnished the first goal for the Magic, then she retired to rest her bruised limb.
Senior Brooke Sabia scored to make it 2-0 before halftime, and after the break a second insurance goal capped off a complicated passing sequence. Sabia, her twin sister Allie, and junior Emilee Ehret sent the ball around the circle to set up the finishing blow by sophomore Millie Stefanowicz.
Coach Christina Peruto Post was much happier with this performance than she was with Monday’s effort.
In addition to the Mount capitalizing on more scoring chances, she pointed out, “Our defense only allowed one corner, and we didn’t have any saves at all marked down for Christina [Black, the Mount’s sophomore goalie].”
Mount St. Joe and Spring-Ford have engaged in a number of scrappy basketball games over the years, and the hockey teams joined battle in the same spirit on Friday.
MSJ’s Pascali probably doesn’t know who “Little Richard” Penniman is, but if the groundbreaking musician had seen her play last week he would’ve pronounced her “Ready ready Teddy to rock’n’roll.” For the third straight game she opened the scoring for the Magic, giving them a 1-0 halftime lead over Spring-Ford. The freshman stuffed the ball into the Rams’ pen after a hard outside drive by Ehret rebounded off one of the goalposts.
Mount St. Joe generated 13 penalty corners in the match, but the Rams had eight of their own and the Magic defense was far from idle.
Coach Peruto Post pointed out “Christina Black had seven saves, and our center back, Laura Pacheco (a senior), actually had three defensive stops. We also got [single] defensive stops from each of the Sabias, and from [senior] Katie Gozden and [junior] Julia Mustin.”
Spring-Ford tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second half, but the Mount cashed on a corner to regain the lead with 11:25 to play. Off the insertion, the receiver high in the circle dealt the ball off to the right for Brooke Sabia, who fired the game-winner and guaranteed the Magic an invitation to the PIAA’s big dance.