by Tom Utescher
The injury bug began biting the girls’ soccer team at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy before the season even began, and it has remained firmly embedded in the Blue Devils squad ever since.
A 2-1 home field loss to Abington Friends School last Tuesday dropped the Devils’ record to 0-4 on the season (all non-league bouts), and the team is probably justified in feeling that some of those games would’ve had different outcomes if a truly healthy line-up had been in place.
“It’s just been a rough go,” said sixth-year head coach Jerry Hartey. “We haven’t had our complete projected starting 11 on the field one time.”
It started with a summertime club soccer injury to sophomore star Megan McCool, who had already been one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the Inter-Ac League as a freshman last fall. With one foot booted due to a torn ligament, she won’t return until sometime next month.
Junior Sinéad Brierley, a quick midfielder and a natural leader out on the pitch, has returned after missing several games with injury. Her classmate and fellow starter Kathleen Foley also had to sit out a few contests, and several seniors are currently playing hurt. Another 12th-grader, veteran mid Julia Schumacher, was out sick for last Tuesday’s tilt with the AFS Kangaroos.
Abington was the early aggressor and put steady pressure on the SCH defense and goalie Madi Sehn, a senior out of Norwood Fontbonne Academy. Nine minutes in, a Kangaroo corner kick from the left set up a hard shot from right side, and Sehn was able to swat the ball wide of the far post for one of the more dramatic of her 14 saves on the day.
Brierley got loose on an attack for the Blue Devils, but she didn’t have any support and was swarmed under by three AFS defenders. A number of times, SCH seemed about to pose a bona fide threat with its transition offense, but the Devils frequently fell victim to the offsides trap employed by the visitors, and these efforts ended with a whistle from the refs.
Abington got on the board a little over 10 minutes in, when Isabel McPeak scored on a straight-on shot from the middle of the field just inside the 18. The ‘Roos’ second goal, the which held up as the gamewinner, came with 10:35 remaining in the opening period. On a direct kick from about 25 yards out, Jennifer Sheppard fired a bullet, and although Sehn initially stopped the ball, she couldn’t hold it, and it rolled on into the cage to make it a 2-0 game.
Springside Chestnut Hill was able to make the rest of the afternoon more interesting by trimming its deficit to a single point before halftime. In transition once more, a pass through the midfield by freshman Rebecca Saunders was gathered in by Brierley, who went into the box in line with the left post and scored on a well-timed shot.
At halftime, Coach Hartey related, “We talked about moving for each other better, communicating, and not just blindly kicking the ball. When you have a lot of young players, they get the ball on their feet and they want to get it up the field right away, while the more experienced girls know when they need to rush, or when they can take a couple dribbles and look at their options.”
The play was more even in the second half, and while AFS still generated more offensive opportunities than the hosts, Sehn kept the cage sealed for the Blue Devils. Early in the period SCH sophomore Gabriella Sciarrotta carried the ball into the box from the left wing and got off a solid shot, but in the middle of the goal Kangaroos keeper Lizzie Bolger dropped to her knees to wrap up the ball.
Abington’s McPeak came close to giving her team an insurance goal several times, but was foiled by Sehn, and at the other end, the Devils were unable to come up with the equalizer.
“Normally, you don’t go into a game expecting to have six or seven freshmen on the field, but a lot of our returning players just can’t go,” SCH’s Hartey said. “Even some of our older players have been shifted to unfamiliar positions because of the changes we’ve had to make. They’re all doing a great job, but it’s not going to be easy for us until we get a little bit healthier.”