by Tom Utescher
As a whole, the field hockey season didn’t turn out as Mount St. Joseph Academy had hoped, but as the Magic closed out their 2013 campaign in the District 1 Class AAA tournament last week, they were able to notch one victory against a higher seed.
As the tourney got underway on Monday, the 20th-seeded Mounties took a short road trip to number 13 Wissahickon High School, putting three goals on the board before the host Trojans broke the shut-out for a 3-1 final. Juniors Katie Fitzpatrick and Stephanie Mahoney and freshman Margot Biamon did the scoring, and senior Christina Black made four saves in goal for the Mount.
Two days later, the Magic’s season concluded after a considerably longer bus ride to Owen J. Roberts High School near Pottstown. The host Wildcats, who had drawn the fourth seed and had enjoyed a first-round bye, turned back the Mounties, 2-0. Unfortunately for the Magic, any team that loses during the first two rounds of the District tourney is automatically eliminated.
Mount St. Joe ended its season with an overall record of 13-7, and within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies a 9-5 record had earned them a fourth-place finish behind co-champions Gwynedd Mercy and Villa Maria (each 12-2), and number three Merion Mercy (11-3). The three teams ahead of the Mount all reached the semifinals of the District 1 double-A tournament last week.
Through much of the season, Mount St. Joe struggled at putting the ball in the cage, but when District play got underway on Monday, the scoring riddle was solved for the time being.
“I think the kids were excited to get on the [artificial] turf,” said head coach Christina Post. “We were able to use our stickwork and speed, things that a grass field kind of hinders. We’ve been sort of inconsistent this season, but I always thought we could play the way we did at Wissahickon.”
Biamon, a freshman who has started all season long, penetrated to put the Mount on the board, and the eventual gamewinner was in the books before halftime, courtesy of Mahoney.
“We’ve just kept working and working on the scoring,” Coach Post related, “and in this game I think the biggest thing was that we played a very good possession game. We really didn’t let them have the ball very much.
“Instead of just whacking the ball up the field at the forwards,” she continued, “we were really trying to connect with them better. That had been an issue this season, but recently we’ve been cutting back to the ball and finding each other better.”
In the midfield, senior Millie Stefanowicz gave a strong performance, as usual.
“She’s a great distributor, and she just sets up a lot of things we do in transition,” Post said.
On most occasions when Wissahickon progressed into the Mount circle, Post noted, the Trojans were not able to get off a shot.
“Taylor Gray [a sophomore] was really solid in the back and came up with a lot of tackles and clears,” the coach commented, “and we also had [senior] Dana Scott back playing for the first time since she got a concussion at the beginning of the month. Taylor Merkle [a sophomore] did a good job for us while Dana was out, and Adrienne Pero [a junior] has been doing well back there, too.”
At Wissahickon, Fitzpatrick scored in the second half to put the Mount up 3-0, and in the waning moments the Trojans avoided a shutout thanks to a goal by their senior captain, Melanie Fry.
Two days later at Owen J. Roberts, the hosts’ Maddie Mullen put the Magic behind 0-1 in the first half, and the Wildcats’ Shannon Harris added an insurance goal early in the second stanza. Mount St. Joe appeared to cut its deficit to a single goal on a corner play, when Stefanowicz received the insertion and got off a drive near the top of the circle. The ball entered the Owen J. goal, but in a discussion after the fact, the officials decided that the MSJ senior had launched her shot from outside of the scoring loop.
“They called it a goal, and then they took it away,” related MSJ’s Post. “It was pretty apparent that Millie stopped the ball [off of the insertion from the endline] and then carried it in about five yards before she shot.
“Still, the reffing didn’t lose the game for us,” she continued. “We didn’t execute our game plan. I asked the girls to keep the ball out of the middle because that’s how Owen J. likes to bring the ball up the field. We needed to pass the ball out laterally and then use the alleys, but we didn’t do that. The bottom line is that Owen J. played a better game than we did.”
The Magic will lose Stefanowicz, Scott and Black to graduation, but they return a slightly larger group of juniors who have been playing varsity ball since their freshman season.
“Our largest class is the sophomores,” Post pointed out, “and it was a very tough decision separating them into varsity and JV because there’s a lot of talent there. We also had three freshman who were able to make the varsity this year, so we’re looking forward to good things next season.”