by Tom Utescher
Senior Brooke Sabia shoots the fourth Mount St. Joseph goal in last Friday’s District 1 third–place game. North Penn scored three times after that to pull out a 5-4 overtime victory. (Photo by Tom Utescher)
Last week Mount St. Joseph Academy was ahead in the second half during both of its “Final Four” field hockey games in the District 1 tournament, but the Magic wound up losing both matches in overtime and became the district’s fourth-seeded team heading into the PIAA Class AAA state tournament.
Seeded seventh for the district tourney, Mount St. Joe (17-3 overall) allowed number 11 Unionville High School to tie their Tuesday tilt, 3-3, near the end of regulation play, and after two fruitless overtime periods, the Indians won on penalty strokes. Three days later in the third-place playoff at Wissahickon High School, 16th-seeded North Penn scored the last two goals in regulation to force the Magic into overtime, and the Maidens found the cage just a few minutes into the extra session to win 5-4.
“I think we struggled to play as a team today,” said MSJ coach Christina Peruto Post on Friday. “We have some younger girls filling in for some people who are injured, and I think our more experienced players tried to take the team on their back, tried to do a little too much on their own. We told them that now that we’ll be in States, we’re back to a one-and-done situation [last week’s games did not affect the Magic’s inclusion in the state tourney, just their seeding], and we need to play together.”
The Mount went into the final four without an important offensive weapon, Ali Waters, who was struck in the knee by a ball during warm-ups for the team’s quarterfinal match the previous Friday. The junior may not be one of the Magic’s most heralded scorers, but she’s provided a number of important markers this fall, including three of the four total goals that Mount St. Joe scored against Catholic Academies rival Villa Maria.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday the Magic were just two minutes away from a trip to the District championship game. Junior Anne Burgoyne opened the scoring against Unionville, but the Mounties found themselves trailing 2-1 at the interlude. In the second half senior Brooke Sabia tied the contest on a penalty stroke, and with ten minutes left to play her twin sister Allie also cracked the backboard, giving Mount St. Joe a 3-2 lead.
Unionville attacked vigorously after that, keeping the Magic penned up in their own end of the field, but the clock dropped down to the two-minute mark with the Mount’s slim lead still intact. However, with 1:55 remaining, the Indians balanced the scoreboard at 3-3.
Mount St. Joe generated a number of scoring opportunities in a pair of 15-minute overtime periods, but couldn’t get anything to go in. After that, Unionville goalie Same Carlino sealed the victory for her club by stopping the first three penalty strokes taken by the Mount.
Friday’s opponent, the North Penn Maidens, had NCAA Division I recruits filling the roles of chief offensive weapon (high scorer Emilie Ikeda will attend American University) and last line of defense (goalie Shannon Keen is bound for Bucknell). However, most team members are focused primarily on other sports, particularly lacrosse, so all-round athleticism and intensity are prominent characteristics of the club.
“I don’t coach according to who our opponent is; I like to get our team out there playing our best game,” observed Maidens mentor Carrie Jankowski. “My philosophy is be aggressive, go hard to every free ball, and control the tone of the game that way. At the very least, you’re going to take the other team out of their game plan.
North Penn fell short of that objective in its semifinal match, losing to eventual district champ Owen J. Roberts, 3-0.
“We didn’t really come ready to play on Tuesday,” Jankowski related. “I think today the girls were pretty fired up to redeem themselves. They fought really hard in this game.”
For Friday’s bout at Wissahickon, the ladies from Lansdale were missing regular starter Bobby Dougherty, a senior, while the Magic were still without Waters and also had sophomore Carl Beal sidelined due to a concussion.
Mount St. Joe made the first rush of the afternoon, but the Maidens quickly came back down the turf and earned a corner, sending a shot wide to the left. The ebb and flow continued until the Magic scored in the aftermath of back-to-back corner plays.
The second of these restarts didn’t lead directly to a goal, but the Mounties kept the action in the North Penn circle. The ball went from Brooke Sabia to junior Emilee Ehret to the scorer, Burgoyne, with 17:14 remaining in the first half. The lead didn’t last long, as Maidens senior Kelley Colbridge leveled the score exactly two minutes later.
Roughly five minutes after that, an MSJ corner engendered a flurry of shots, and the result was a North Penn foul that yielded a penalty stroke for the Magic. With 10:35 left in the opening period, Brooke Sabia cashed in from the stroke line, lifting the ball into the roof of the cage at the right corner. The same Sabia drove the ball at the cage from the top of the circle on another corner in the final minute of the period, but a teammate’s tip-in attempt went outside of the left post.
“We didn’t know much about their team this year,” said North Penn’s Jankowski, “but we saw pretty quickly that they were very dangerous on their corners.”
Mount St. Joe went into the break leading 2-1 in goals and 3-2 in corners, but neither advantage lasted long. Just 54 seconds into the trailing half Maidens senior Juliamae Marger evened up the score, and North Penn would go on to enjoy seven corners to the Magic’s three.
A third of the way through the second period, the Sabia sisters each scored a goal in a three-minute span. Allie fired first with 22:40 to play, and from the middle of the circle Brooke banged in her second of the day at 19:16.
What briefly seemed like a solid lead became a shaky one as North Penn responded immediately, with Ikeda clicking to make it 4-3 with 18:05 up in lights. Ten more minutes went by without an equalizer for the Maidens, despite a series of chances on corners and in open play.
The Magic would fend off an assault, but then would have trouble transporting the ball to the offensive end. In the heat of some of their tougher battles this season, the Mounties would sometimes forget every coach’s injunction to move the ball upfield out on the wings, and would try to jam it through the middle. That happened here, and added to the Maidens’ time of possession.
“We carried the ball too much instead of using our passing game,” admitted MSJ coach Christina Peruto Post. “We took it right into them even though we knew they were good at block tackles.”
When a ball fired by North Penn ricocheted up out of danger off the foot of a Mount field player at the goal line, the resulting penalty stroke was taken by Ikeda. With 7:53 to go, she shot low on the right to tie the match at 4-4, a count that held up until the end of the second half.
Early in overtime the Magic was awarded a corner, but the shot they launched deflected off a defender’s stick. The Maidens marched right back up the pitch and got the ball into the circle for Ikeda, who was high up, a little right of center. She pounded a shot that sped between a number of players lower in the scoring loop and MSJ fans heard the deflating sound of the ball banging into the backboard of the cage.
In goal, Keen was credited with two saves in the victory, while the Magic received four stops from sophomore Christina Black.