by Tom Utescher
For the second time in three days, Mount St. Joseph Academy’s field hockey squad was taking on one of the co-leaders in the Suburban One League’s National Conference, neither of which had been scored upon in conference play.
Last Monday the host Magic managed to find the back of the cage twice against the Neshaminy High School Redskins, duplicating the 2-1 tally in their win at Council Rock North the previous Saturday. Senior co-captains Ann Burgoyne and Allie Waters provided the offensive punch against the ‘Skins, and junior Christina Black made 10 saves in goal as the Mounties raised their record to 6-1 overall while remaining 3-1 within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.
Neshaminy slipped to 4-2 overall, having lost another non-league game to Spring-Ford High School. The Redskins were due to meet Council Rock North at the end of the week to battle for supremacy in the Suburban One National.
After Monday’s match, second-year Mount coach Christina Post noted, “Our forwards are working together better and better, and we’re getting some subs in who are able to hold their own on the forward line. That lets us give people a rest when they need it, so they can really work hard when they’re in.
“Our [penalty] corners are one of the strongest points of this team,” she continued, “and our own corner defense has been great. Christina Black has been amazing in the cage.”
In front of the junior keeper, two freshman defenders are seeing a lot of playing time; Taylor Gray and Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate Eliza Ewing.
“They’re growing every day,” commented Post. “There’s constant improvement in things like their understanding of dangerous situations, how to shift and communicate.”
The defensive unit would be under a good deal of pressure in the last 20 minutes of the Neshaminy game, but in the first period the Magic were assertive, earning four corners to the Redkins’ one and gaining a 1-0 halftime advantage. Sophomore Stephanie Mahoney assisted with a pass in front of the visitors’ cage, and Burgoyne scored from near the right post.
A little over two minutes into the second half the Magic earned a corner, and while there was no dangerous scoring threat on the play itself, aggressive action by junior Millie Stefanowicz helped keep Neshaminy from clearing the ball downfield. In the aftermath of another MSJ corner, the ball rolled loose in a group of players in front of the goal and Waters knocked it in, giving the hosts a 2-0 lead with 26:48 left to play.
On a third Mount corner play four minutes later the ball was deflected wide to the left of the goal, and after that Neshaminy went on the attack. With 19:39 on the game clock, the ‘Skins scored off a corner of their own, driving the ball down low towards the left post to set up the strike by Mallory-Jo Mason.
From there, the visitors pressed hard for the equalizer and hardly seemed deterred by a yellow card slapped on one of their players shortly after their goal was scored. Off of a Redskins corner two minutes later the ball briefly rolled loose in open space in front of the MSJ cage, but Neshaminy couldn’t get there in time for a shot.
The Magic survived two more corners in close succession and then began to take the play to the other end of the pitch. A total of 10 saves by Black helped the 2-1 lead stand up until the end of the match. The Redskins had evened up the penalty corner totals at 7-7, and their goalie, Sarah Mitchell, came away with six saves.
A 3-2 defeat at the hands of league archrival Villa Maria remained the lone loss on the Mount’s ledger.
“Villa is an excellent team, but the way we played that day was not truly representative of what we can do,” remarked Coach Post. “We didn’t play a bad game, but we didn’t do what we set out to do. We didn’t really execute our game plan, and that was mostly a mental thing.”
Another familiar AACA opponent, Gwynedd Mercy, also gave the Mount a good run before finally succumbing, 5-4. With four sophomores and two freshman either starting or seeing a lot of playing time off the bench, the Magic should continue to make strides in the second half of the season.
As Post put it last week, “We keep improving and we’re definitely a better team than we were just a few weeks ago.”