by Tom Utescher
Although morning showers were not in the weather forecast, Mount St. Joseph Academy managed to wet one end of its soccer field at the start of the second half of last Saturday match. The timer-controlled sprinkler system came on just as play resumed after halftime, and both the Magic and the visiting Pandas of Nazareth Academy had to step off the pitch for a few minutes until the rains from below could be switched off.
That was about the only thing that went wrong for the Mounties the whole day, though, as they peppered the Pandas, 6-1, to attain a 3-1 record within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.
After going down 0-2 in the first period, Nazareth (1-3 overall, 1-2 AACA) briefly looked like they might make a game of it by netting the opening goal of the second round, but the Mount dominated, 4-0, the rest of the way.
Leading the charge on offense with a hat trick was junior Maryanna Solecki. Senior Courtney Higginson also scored, as did junior Devon Conway and sophomore Meredith Bohner. Sophomore Charlotte Sands started in goal and played deep into the second half, collecting six saves. With a bit under 18 minutes remaining she was relieved by junior Meghan Keown, who made four stops.
The Saturday matinee wrapped up a week in which the Magic went 2-1 overall. It started on Tuesday with a 3-0 non-league win over St. Hubert’s, and two days later the Mounties suffered their first loss of the season, as host Gwynedd Mercy prevailed in overtime, 3-2.
Although Gwynedd is the only team to top the MSJ booters so far, several of the Mount’s senior veterans felt that the toughest opponent they’ve faced up to this point is another league rival, Villa Maria. In a home match on September 5, Mount St. Joe secured a 1-0 decision over the Villa Hurricanes. Sophomore M.K. Maloney scored the lone goal in that game off an assist from Higginson, and Sands made 16 saves for the shutout.
Senior Colleen Steinmetz, a deep defender, came up the field to score the opening goal (which was the game winner) against St. Hubert’s in the Mount’s first match last week, and Higginson and Solecki furnished the other two. Freshman Ashley Pyne, who assisted on the last two markers against the Bambies, netted both MSJ goals against Gwynedd on Thursday. These were the first and last goals during regulation play, but the Monarchs had the final word with the deciding goal in overtime.
Older Magic booters felt that their team may have played with a little too much emotion, and not quite enough poise.
“I would agree with that, so it was good for us to get refocused in the game against Nazareth,” Mount coach Catherine Kulp said when the week’s work was done.
Nazareth, a league power in the not-too-distant past, kept the Mounties off the board for more than 20 minutes last Saturday, although they were missing some players due to injuries and academic conflicts. A pass from sophomore Isabella Balcer set up the icebreaker for the Magic, which was scored by junior Devon Conway with 16:58 remaining in the period. Solecki started in on her hat trick with 2:18 to go, giving the hosts a 2-0 cushion for the halftime interlude.
Following the sprinkler incident at the start of the second frame, the Pandas pulled back within a goal of the home team thanks to a marker by Kayla McNamee less than two minutes in. With almost seven minutes gone, a mass assault into the box by Mount St. Joe ended with Solecki’s second goal of the day, as Pyne picked up the assist.
Ten minutes later, the Magic was again booting the ball around inside the Nazareth 18 when Bohner finished the play to make it 4-1. With the clock down to 8:46, Solecki struck for the third time, receiving a feed from Higginson after junior Amanda Steinberg put the ball in play on a corner kick from the left.
Higginson displayed impressive body control on her goal with 1:22 left, dribbling across the box from the left side to out past the right side of the cage, and then pivoting to fire the ball across just inside the near post. Although they couldn’t score down the stretch, the Pandas put together a few rushes and kept things interesting for MSJ’s Keown, who entered the nets in between the fourth and fifth goal for the Magic.
Looking back on the team’s two scrimmage victories and its 5-1 official record, Culp commented, “We have a deep bench, and the team is coalescing very well.”
The MSJ skipper has been able to introduce some fresh young talent into the line-up, and the glue that holds it together is the experienced guidance provided by the seniors; Higginson, Steinmetz, Sarah Lynch (the tri-captains), Natalie Bohner, Mary Grace McIntyre and Jenna Cades.
“As a group, the six of them have taken on a leadership role,” Kulp noted. “They set a great example and it’s a good influence on everyone.”