Plymouth Whitemarsh goalie Morgan Jerin (left) scoops up the ball and protects it from Mount St. Joe forward Katie Mars. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Plymouth Whitemarsh goalie Morgan Jerin (left) scoops up the ball and protects it from Mount St. Joe forward Katie Mars. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

During the first week of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Mount St. Joseph Academy soccer team did its part to battle the disease in all its forms last Monday afternoon. The Magic hosted a fundraiser game benefitting Red Card Cancer, a soccer-oriented effort that was launched in upstate Pennsylvania and has now gone international.

In the contest itself, visiting non-league opponent Plymouth Whitemarsh High School romped to a 3-1 halftime lead thanks to a hat trick by speedy senior striker Nicole Abbott. Mount senior Katie Mars furnished the lone MSJ marker in the first half, then Magic sophomore Ashley Pyne added another with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. In a final assault, Mount St. Joe could not come up with the equalizer and the Colonials left with a 3-2 victory.

Despite the setback, the Mount came away with a 10-5 record, while remaining 6-3 within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies. PW reached double digits in the win column with a 10-1-1 record, and the Colonials stayed at 9-1 in the American Conference of the Suburban One League.

For the game, the Mount wore special Red Card Cancer T-shirts (purchased by the players as part of the fundraiser) with their regular uniform numbers printed on back.

Non-numbered T-shirts were sold to spectators and supporters, general donations were accepted, and the proceeds of the concession stand went to the organization, which is affiliated with the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Charlotte Sands and Kristin Lucas, close friends and Mount St. Joe juniors, brought the effort to the local school. Sands is the starting goalie for the Magic, while Lucas left the soccer squad after her freshman year to focus on basketball. Lucas explained that her father is a good friend of Paul Payne, the Bloomsburg University men’s soccer coach who founded Red Card Cancer.

“I have two older brothers who went to La Salle [High School; Billy ’13 and Matthew ‘14], and there was a Red Card Cancer event there last year,” Lucas related. “I wanted to see it come to the Mount, and everyone’s been very supportive.”

When the game got underway, attention quickly focused on PW’s Abbott, who will go on to play at East Stroudsburg University along with her twin sister Carly, a starting defender for the Colonials. Abbott is a dynamic forward who is fun to watch because she makes herself a scoring threat almost continuously. She struck twice in the first dozen minutes of last Monday’s match.

“She just has explosive speed,” said MSJ head coach Catherine Kulp. “For this game we actually brought [sophomore] Angela Gervasi back to help out. She’s a good scorer herself, but she’s also a great athlete who sees the field very well.”

The Magic broke up the shut out for PW sophomore keeper Morgan Jerin (11 saves) with 18 minutes to go in the first half, when Mars carried the ball along the left wing and angled in to shoot over into the middle of the cage.

On a rush about nine minutes later, the visitors’ Abbott hit the Mount’s left goalpost with a shot. Soon on the attack once more, the senior came in from the right this time and scored with 8:51 left to make it 3-1, a score that held up until halftime.

The Mount had not been without scoring opportunities. Mars headed a shot wide to the right off of a corner kick by senior Amanda Steinberg, and off of a cross from Pyne, fellow sophomore Paige Comtois narrowly missed at the left post. After Mars scored to get the Mount on the board, Pyne charged at a ball served into the box, but just before she arrived it was scooped up by the Colonials’ Jerin.

Late in the period, Abbott came close to notching a fourth goal, but MSJ’s Sands (10 saves) saved one of the PW star’s shots near the left post and tipped two more over the crossbar.

“Charlotte is just outstanding in goal,” MSJ’s Kulp stated. “Even with that hat trick today, we’ve given up 24 goals (against 42 scored) and we’ve played quite a few high-scoring teams. She just makes key saves and bolsters the defense.”

The Magic skipper noted that seniors Noelle Buchanan and Devon Conway have been playing strong defense in front of the keeper, and Kulp is also happy to have a left-footed junior, Gabby Good, playing left back.

Farther up the field another left-footer, Comtois, has accumulated eight assists, helping out strikers like her classmate Pyne, whose second-half goal would be her ninth of the season.

Pyne was already an impact player as a freshman last fall, but Mars, a senior, was something of a late bloomer.

“Katie’s come into her own,” Kulp said. “She scored her seventh goal today, which is impressive since she doesn’t play the whole game. In our system, she’s alone up front and she has to do a lot of running, so we need to sub for her.”

Much of the Mount’s halftime huddle last Monday was devoted to figuring out how to contain PW’s Abbott.

“We just had to work harder on being between her and the goal and slowing her down,” Kulp explained. “We were able to do that a lot better in the second half. We were coming back in the second half, but we just didn’t have the quality finishes to put the ball in the net.”

This was not for lack of chances. Pyne hit a shot too far to the left early in the second stanza, and then the hosts were unable to get off a viable shot on a series of corner kicks. Later, a promising cross floated towards the left post, but MSJ’s Good got there just a little too late to finish the play.

Junior Meredith Bohner had gone into the game and helped stir things up on offense, launching a sharply-angled shot from the right endline that was stopped at the near post by the Colonials’ Jerin. With under seven minutes left, a PW hand ball set up a Mount free kick from a little outside the 18 in the middle of the field, but the Colonials’ defense made sure nothing came of that restart.

Later, the Magic had a line of players advance towards the 18 with the ball. Pyne came in from the right flank, received a pass from Steinberg, and scored to make it a one-goal game with 2:05 on the clock. The Magic hurriedly dug the ball out of the back of the PW net and set about trying to tie the match.

Comtois served a long ball inside, but Jerin reached it before any of the Mounties. With under 40 seconds left, the Magic sophomore carried the ball up the middle and prodded it ahead to Mars, who had a shot from about 10 yards out denied by Jerin. The visitors went away with the win.

“It’s a good game for us to have on the schedule, because its competitive and they’re so close by,” observed the Mount’s Kulp. “It’s a nice neighborhood rivalry, as opposed to our league rivalries.”

The Mount’s improved performance in the second half of the contest had a lot to do with better control of the ball in the midfield.

Speaking of senior Maryanna Solecki, Kulp said, “She’s a four-year starter, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without her in the middle next year. She and Amanda Steinberg play very together, and M.K. Maloney [a junior] has come in from the outside to help out. The three of them work well together to get the ball through the middle of the field and up to Ashley and Katie.”

UPDATE – On Thursday, the Magic lost an overtime game against Catholic Academies rival Gwynedd Mercy for the second time this season. Gwynedd, which had beaten the Mount 2-1 in their first encounter, received goals in regulation time from Kim Sanford, Rachel Koller, and Suzy Bailey. However, the Monarchs also hurt themselves with an own-goal, and gave up goals to MSJ’s Pyne and Maddie Finnegan. Shea Tomlinson scored in overtime to give Gwynedd a 4-3 victory.