by Tom Utescher
After a visit to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy last Friday afternoon, Shipley School’s field hockey players must have been glad that their school no longer belongs to the Inter-Ac League. The Gators have seen quite enough of SCH’s Allie Billock, a senior forward who scored five goals in the Blue Devils’ 8-2 triumph.
After Shipley moved from the old Girls’ Inter-Ac League into the Friends Schools League in 2006, the remaining Inter-Ac schools began to schedule a double round of league games in most sports. If Shipley hadn’t switched, their sticksters would’ve had to encounter Billock and her teammates a second time this fall.
Junior Iman Floyd-Carroll scored twice and sophomore Mason Rode provided the other goal for the Blue Devils last Friday, and junior goalkeeper Frankie Reitmeyer finished with three saves as SCH improved to 5-0 on the season.
Reitmeyer had a shutout going until early in the second half. Billock opened the scoring in the period with her fifth goal of the afternoon, then Shipley sophomore Caroline Getlin got the visitors on the board with 22 minutes remaining in the game. Later, the Gators received their second goal from another 10th-grader, Olivia Sobel.
A third Shipley sophomore, Chrissy Wentz, logged 15 saves in goal.
The Gators had won several pre-season scrimmages before they officially launched their season last Tuesday with a 3-1 non-league win over Penn Charter.
Billock’s offensive outburst against Shipley gave the SCH senior a total of 18 goals in the first five games of the season.
“She has definitely grown as a player,” said Katie Mersky, who coaches the Springside Chestnut Hill squad along with Megan Cipolloni. “She’s worked on her finishing, being in the right place at the right time.”
A number of goals by Billock and other forwards on the team have stemmed from the Blue Devils’ effective transition game.
“It starts with [junior] Mikaela Watson in the back,” Mersky explained. “We’ve gone with a different formation this year, and Mikaela’s playing more of a defensive midfield position. That allows her to push up the field really high, which she likes to do.
“From there,” the coach continued, “we can go outside to our offensive mids, who are [junior] Remi Filippini and [sophomore] Mason Rode. Finally, the ball gets to Allie and [junior] Lily Glendinning, who know what to do up top.”
Billock and Carlin Rode (Mason’s sister) are the only seniors on the squad and are quad-captains, along with 11th graders Filippini and Watson. There are also a lot of other returning varsity players, since only two girls graduated from the 2013 team.
“We have a very strong group of juniors, and a number of them want to play in college,” Mersky related. “We also have girls like Remi and Lily and Lexi Prochniak [another 11th-grader] who play a lot of club hockey, and that helps us.”
Yet another junior, Reitmeyer, took over the starting goalie spot as a sophomore last fall.
“It’s too bad that we don’t have a goalie coach for her,” Mersky said, “but she’s been very focused and this year she’s been communicating well with our backs. She and the other girls showed up in shape and ready to go back in August. We had a good first scrimmage, and we’ve just kept up the momentum from there. Last year I think we had some confidence issues, but this year you can see that the players feel more sure of themselves.”
The SCH athletes needed to draw on their mental toughness at the start of Friday’s match, when Shipley took the ball right up into the hosts’ circle and earned a penalty corner. The Devils didn’t let the Gators get off a shot on the restart, then they took the ball down on offense and stayed there.
A little over five minutes in, Filippini saved the ball from going out over the left endline, then dribbled back to the top of the circle and drove the ball down low. After several ricochets, Billock knocked it in from near the left post.
Both Floyd-Carroll and Glendinning threatened on a corner play a few minutes later, then midway through the first half Billock notched her second goal from close range. From the right wing, Mason Rode drove the ball into the circle and junior Madi Saltzman kept it moving towards the goalcage and Billock.
Shipley then pressed up deep into the Devils’ end and there were a few anxious moments in front of the goal, but sophomore back Morgan Fitton-Zellers confidently dribbled the ball out of the circle.
Wentz, the Gators’ goalie, made a few strong saves at the other end, but eventually Billock got to her a third time, converting off a pass from Floyd-Carroll with 8:37 to go in the first half.
Things just started to snowball on Shipley after that. Floyd-Carroll scored while falling down near the left post, then Billock, who assisted that goal, scored her fourth of the afternoon with two minutes left.
After the interlude found the hosts ahead 5-0, Billock completed her total for the day a little under six minutes after the new half began. This time Shipley answered, as Getlin got the Gators on the board two minutes later.
After Mason Rode got that point back for the home team, Sobel secured Shipley’s second goal with a little over 10 minutes to play. The Blue Devils had the last word, though, with Floyd-Carroll scoring her second marker with an assist from Filippini.
This Tuesday the Blue Devils host familiar non-league rival Germantown Friends, which will arrive with a 3-1 record. Following another non-league outing later this week, SCH will open its Inter-Ac campaign on September 23, when Germantown Academy comes to call.