by Tom Utescher
Both the Mount St. Joseph field hockey squad and the cause of cancer research and prevention were winners last Saturday at the team’s annual Play For The Cure Fundraiser. Pink ribbons, T-shirts, headbands, and other paraphernalia were on display everywhere, and after the Mount’s varsity and JV teams performed against visiting North Penn High School, a clinic was held for grade school players who hailed from 15 different schools in Chestnut Hill and the surrounding area.
The day’s proceeds were donated to the National Foundation for Cancer Research. Among the instructors at the clinic were two daughters of MSJ head coach Tina Reinprecht, Mount graduates Katie (’08) and Julia (’09) Reinprecht. In 2012, both sisters were members of the U.S. Olympic Team and of the Princeton University franchise that won the NCAA national championship.
In the varsity hockey match that launched the day’s proceedings, the Mount improved to 9-5 overall by topping North Penn, 4-1. Two goals by freshman Ellie Maransky and one by sophomore Grace Wallis gave the Magic a 3-0 lead before the Maidens got on the board late in the first half. The lone goal of the second period was scored by MSJ sophomore Mary Kate Stefanowicz, and at the other end of the pitch senior goalie Allison McMullen made five saves for the winners.
Earlier last week, Mount St. Joe had raised its record within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies to 7-2 with a pair of victories on the road. The Magic won 3-1 at Gwynedd Mercy Academy on Tuesday, and 5-0 at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart two days later.
Going back in time, the Mount had owned a long string of wins against Gwynedd that extended through the teams’ first meeting in the 2012 season. The Monarchs won the rematch that fall, and in 2013 the teams split again, each prevailing at home by a 2-1 tally. Last year Gwynedd swept the Magic, who would finish fourth in the AACA for the second year in a row.
In a September square-off this season, the Magic topped the Monarchs 2-1 on an overtime goal by sophomore Natalie McNamara. On its home field last Tuesday, Gwynedd appeared en route to avenging that loss as it earned a 1-0 halftime lead thanks to senior Maddie Meagher. Mount St. Joe’s offense came to life in the second period, beginning with a tying goal by Wallis that followed a penalty corner insertion by Stefanowicz.
Maransky then notched the eventual game winner on a sequence that saw the ball travel from junior Marge Lynch to freshman Julianna Kratz to the shooter. The third goal came indirectly off of a corner play, with Wallis assisting on the marker by Kratz. These two played together at St. Genevieve’s School in Flourtown, and Lynch is a graduate of Norwood Fontbonne Academy. She recently made a verbal commitment to play for one of the nation’s elite programs, Princeton University.
At Sacred Heart on Thursday the Magic dominated, as expected. Maransky scored two of the five goals, and junior Margot Biamon registered one goal and one assist. The other two markers came from Stefanowicz and senior Virginia Poliwoda, and McNamara had an assist.
This left the Magic with three league games remaining on the schedule, two of them against teams in the AACA’s lower tier. The last league opponent will be Merion Mercy, which finished ahead of the Mount last fall. This season the Magic defeated Merion the first time around, and if they can beat the Golden Bears again to wind up with a 10-2 record, they would place second behind Villa Maria, which is responsible for both of the Mount’s league losses to date.
Although Mount St. Joe is in the PIAA’s triple-A class and the rest of the AACA schools are in lower-enrollment categories, Coach Reinprecht feels that Catholic Academies play prepares the Magic very well for large-school postseason opponents.
As she put it, “We’re fortunate to be in this very talented league that’s populated by double-A teams that play triple-A hockey. That’s a benefit, along with the great rivalries that go back for years.”
Asked about the Mount’s resurgence this season, she explained “It’s an attitude of belief that they’re working hard and they can beat anybody on a given day. The players have to trust in the game plan and trust in one another, and that has started to come together. You build on a solid foundation and then every week you try to bring up the tempo, bring up the consistency, bring up the power.”
The Magic finished out last week with a non-league bout against a North Penn team that arrived with a 7-5 record. Most of the Mount’s hockey field had dried out following Friday’s rain, but there was a patch of slippery mud in front of one goal cage. The start of the game was delayed until some kitty litter was brought back from a local supermarket and was spread on the slick spot.
One of the Norwood grads on the MSJ varsity, senior Eliza Ewing, encountered a potential future college teammate in the Maidens’ Sophie Kim. Both of them hope to play and study at Johns Hopkins University.
North Penn also has a Lafayette recruit in senior Jen DeLongis, but it was younger players who controlled play in the early minutes of Saturday’s game. The Magic came into the circle on the right, and a shot by Biamon clattered into the outside of the board on the right side of the goal. On a subsequent MSJ corner about five minutes into the match, a drive from the top of the circle was blocked and the ball was cleared.
The Magic didn’t let the ball get out past midfield, though, and with 23:34 on the clock Maransky got the home team on the scoreboard. Mount St. Joe came right back up the field and resumed firing. On a ball that was blocked by North Penn keeper Brynne Shoppe and rolled back loose near the goal, Wallis alertly closed in and knocked it home.
A few minutes later, a cross by Kratz found fellow freshman Maransky, who sank her second goal of the day, putting the hosts up 3-0 just over 11 minutes into the match. A North Penn corner play at the far end came to naught halfway through the opening period, and immediately the Mount countercharged, seeing a shot by McNamara came back off the leg pads of Schoppe, who would be credited with 15 saves in the game.
The Maidens earned two more corners before the interlude, and in the aftermath of the second one Bri O’Donnell scored to get the visitors on the board with 6:15 remaining. Halftime arrived with the score still 3-1, and the Magic enjoying a 4-3 edge in corner calls.
The second half was not nearly as dramatic, and as time began to dwindle away for the Maidens, the Magic fed reserves into the game and did a little experimenting. The lone goal of the period, which came with 12:30 remaining, originated on a corner play. The ball found its way from Biamon to Wallis and then to Stefanowicz, who scored from about 10 feet out, firing past an advancing Schoppe.
There is an interesting age phenomenon in the Magic line-up, in that as you go up the field from the defense, for the most part the team gets younger.
Speaking of her senior netminder, Coach Reinprecht said, “Allison’s having a fantastic year in goal, and starting with her we’re able to build the ball out of the back, which is a wonderful tool to have.”
It helps that right in front of McMullen the Magic have her senior classmates Ewing and Taylor Gray, who already became varsity regulars as freshmen. Other seniors like Mairéad Denton and Liz DeGroat are also members of the defensive contingent.
A lot of the Magic’s scoring this season has come from the aforementioned sophomores and freshmen, who arrived at the Mount with a good knowledge of fundamentals learned in club and grade school programs.
“They’re fearless,” said Reinprecht. “They have that spark, and they also have the skills up top to handle a big ball, eliminate a defender, combine with a pass, and execute a variety of shots. Everyone just seems to be moving forward together right now – it’s great.”