by Tom Utescher
The time of possession, the penalty corner totals, and other statistics favored Mount St. Joseph Academy, but as the end of last Tuesday’s field hockey home opener approached, the scoreboard showed the host Magic trailing Neshaminy High School, 1-0. On a corner play that took place with no time left in regulation, Chrissy Pascali scored to level the score for the Mount, which then won in sudden victory overtime on a goal by the team’s other senior co-captain, Katie Maransky.
Mount St. Joe improved to 2-0, having won by an identical score (in regulation) at Pennsbury High School the previous Friday.
One of the reasons why the Magic couldn’t finish a scoring chance for much of the afternoon was a heroic effort in the Neshaminy goalcage by junior Haille Sheppard. She finished with 19 saves, while MSJ’s Allison McMullen, also an 11th-grader, made six stops for the winners.
Weather conditions were brutal for the heavily-padded goalies, in particular, and it wasn’t much better for the field players. Due to temperatures in the nineties and high humidity, game officials halted the action for a “water break” midway through each of the 30-minute halves.
Despite one brief foray into the Mount scoring circle by the visiting Redskins (yes, the Neshaminy teams are still using that nickname, despite some stirrings at the school newspaper), Mount St. Joseph controlled the ball much of the time for the bulk of the first half.
Still, it took a little while for the Magic to penetrate deep into the visitors’ circle and pose serious scoring threats. Over a dozen minutes in, a reverse stick shot by sophomore Margot Biamon was saved, and on a subsequent MSJ corner, a defender blocked the ball after it was inserted to the top of the circle.
Following the first-half water break, the Magic earned two consecutive corners. Neshaminy ended up fouling again after the first one, then a shot by Maransky was turned aside by Sheppard with a leg pad. A little later, the visiting keeper repulsed a short shot by MSJ senior Adriana Pero, and another Mount corner play produced a scramble in front of the cage but no goal.
On a rush down the field, Neshaminy scored its lone goal of the day with 3:26 left in the first half. The Redskins took the ball down to the right endline and crossed it to the goalmouth, where senior Mackenzie Turchi scored. The Magic had opportunities on six penalty corners in the opening period and Neshaminy had none, but the visitors led, 1-0.
Up until the second-half water break, the flow of play between the two teams was more even that it had been in the first period. As regulation time began to wind down, the Mount pressed harder for a tying goal.
With two-and-a-half minutes remaining, a drive by the Mounties sent the ball into the backboard of the Neshaminy goal, but it had not been touched inside the circle, so it didn’t count. Off of a penalty corner, the Redskins’ Sheppard sprawled to stop a shot by Maransky, and on a subsequent corner the busy keeper saved both the initial shot and a follow-up by Biamon.
In the final seconds, the Magic were awarded yet another corner. Time ran out as the two teams set up for the play, but when the result of the restart will make a difference in the outcome of the game, play goes forward. From the left endline, Pascali inserted the ball up to junior Taylor Gray a little to the left of the top of the circle. She didn’t get off one of her stronger blasts, but the ball skipped back down towards the near post, and Pascali closed in to score.
For the seven-on-seven overtime (a 15-minute, sudden victory session), the Magic sent out Gray, Pascali, Maransky, Pero, McMullen, Biamon, and senior Katie Fitzpatrick.
After an early Mount attack, Neshaminy came down the field for a corner, but shot wide to the left.
The Magic took the ball back up through the midfield, where the teams fought for possession. Pero sent the ball ahead to Maransky, who was breaking towards the circle. Maransky carried the ball across the line a bit left of center and launched a hard shot that got past Sheppard, ending the match four minutes into the OT. The Mounties finished with a 13-2 advantage in penalty corners, and more importantly, they finally moved ahead on the scoreboard.