by Tom Utescher
Neither Norwood Fontbonne Academy nor Gwynedd Mercy have found field hockey victories easy to come by in the Girls Catholic Academies League this fall, so each team was eager to emerge with a win when they met at Gwynedd last Wednesday afternoon.
However, as little more than five minutes remained in the second half, a pair of zeroes still hung up on the scoreboard. Norwood finally broke the mutual shutout with 5:03 to go thanks to seventh-grader Sonja Bjornson, and a little later her classmate Gianna Giovannone added an insurance goal to complete a 2-0 victory for the visitors.
Coming into the contest, Norwood had a league record of 1-3-1, and Gwynedd was 1-4. Both teams had beaten Waldron Mercy, and NFA’s tie had come against Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.
For the first few minutes of Wednesday’s match, the two teams battled back and forth in the middle of the field. Gwynedd was the first to get into the opponent’s circle, but the Mustangs didn’t get off a shot, and a little later Norwood was unable to put the ball on-goal during a pair of penalty corner sequences.
After Gwynedd brought the ball down to the other end for a short stretch, Norwood came back up the field and Giovannone took the ball into the circle. Seconds later, Norwood was awarded a long hit from the right side, now with a little over nine minutes left in the first half. Eighth-grader Jacquelyn Nyzio drove the ball along the endline to the goal, but no one was in position to shoot for the Bears.
NFA earned two corners as the first half wound down and the visitors were still on the offensive at the end, but the score remained 0-0 as the intermission arrived. In the midfield and elsewhere, Nyzio had been handling the ball a great deal of the time for Norwood, but in the second half more people stepped up and got involved, and this helped lead to the victory.
On the other side, seventh-grader Gia Hunt was a workhorse for Gwynedd in the transition game, but when the Monarchs got into the circle, they weren’t able to put much pressure on the NFA goal. Norwood goalie Mary Kate Ciolko, a seventh-grader, had to make just one save en route to her shutout.
Early in the second period, the Bears’ Nyzio drove the ball into the Gwynedd circle, and seventh-grader Mari Kniezewski fired a shot off the leg pads of the Mustangs’ eighth-grade keeper, Hannah Santos. Santos logged six saves during the contest, and made a number of kick clears, as well.
The visitors missed the cage on shots by Bjornson and by eighth-grader Lilly Gilmore, and in the middle of the period a Norwood corner was initially disrupted by the Gwynedd defense, and Santos made the save on a follow-up shot.
Soon after that, the Mustangs galloped down the field and brought the ball right to the mouth of the visitors’ goal. Here, Ciolko recorded her lone save of the day, and Gwynedd was not quite aggressive enough to cash in on its best scoring opportunity of the afternoon.
As regulation time ticked away, no one wanted to mention the dreaded “O” word, but it certainly began to look like overtime was in the offing.
On one of Norwood’s many rushes, Nyzio sent the ball into the circle from the right wing. Kniezewski was unable to finish from near the far post, but Norwood kept the ball around the home team’s circle, and eventually Bjornson scored with 5:03 remaining in the game.
Gwynedd’s Santos stopped a shot by Gilmore a little after that, but when the NFA eighth grader was partially blocked on another shot later on, Giovanonne closed in to knock the ball into the cage with 2:15 to go. Gilmore had another shot saved by Gwynedd’s Santos down the stretch and the Bears earned a final corner in the last half-minute, but the count was still 2-0 when the contest came to an end.