by Tom Utescher
For Inter-Ac League teams, the Pa. Independent Schools tournament sometimes serves a useful function in setting up a third meeting between two schools that split in their home/away regular season series.
So it was last Thursday for the girls soccer squad at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, which had defeated the Academy of Notre Dame in their first official league game, 3-1. but lost to the Irish, 2-4, in their Inter-Ac rematch at the end of October.
Last week’s third encounter took place on the home turf of the eighth-seeded SCH Blue Devils, who took a 2-0 lead in the first period and then were up 3-0 in the second before number nine Notre Dame got on the board with 18 minutes remaining. The 3-1 win in the opening-round match sent Springside Chestnut Hill on to a quarterfinal bout against top-seeded Germantown Academy, which had a bye in the first round.
In another opening-round affair number seven Penn Charter, the two-time defending PAIS champ, got goals from senior Dom DeMarco and freshman Emma Maley in a 2-0 victory over 10th-seeded Hill School. Charter moves on to face number two Friends Central.
SCH senior Meghan McCool, who will sign with the University of Virginia in February, fired in the first goal for the Blue Devils last Thursday, and near the end of the half sophomore Emily McNesby (a University of Maryland recruit) scored off her own rebound. In the second period McCool assisted McNesby on what proved to be an insurance goal for the home side. Junior goalie Destini Curry made 10 saves for the victors.
McCool’s status just before game time was uncertain. She had suffered a groin pull in a match against Agnes Irwin the previous Friday, then revisited the injury in last Tuesday’s tilt against PC. McCool had to retire to the sideline five minutes into that match, and the Quakers easily avenged an earlier league loss to SCH. Charter’s 5-1 win featured two goals by Dom DeMarco’s sophomore sister, Giovanna, and singles from Maley, fellow freshman Ally Paul, and eighth-grader Maggie Boyes.
“It was the end of the league season and I think we just were mentally fatigued,” said Springside Chestnut Hill coach John Westfield. “Everyone was disappointed with that game, but now with the Inter-Ac being over, the independent schools tournament gives you kind of a second life.”
He’d thought his team would be facing Notre Dame without McCool, but when he reached the field on Thursday she announced that she would be playing.
“I made sure it was okay with our trainer, and she was cleared to play,” he said. “Obviously, even an unhealthy Meg is a huge plus.”
Eventually discarding a constricting Ace® bandage on one leg, McCool did not appear the least bit bashful about making contact. As usual, she pinballed off the multiple defenders who surrounded her, often tumbling to the ground and bouncing back up.
An injury to another Blue Devil had played a role in one of the team’s regular-season matches against Notre Dame. The Irish have their own Virginia recruit in McCool’s club teammate Phoebe McClernon, and she was marked in the first game with SCH by Blue Devils sophomore Marissa Brown, a transfer from North Penn High School. The lone goal for the Irish in that contest came from junior lacrosse standout Claire Nappi.
“The second time we played them Marissa was out with an injury,” Westfield related. “Phoebe killed us in that game; I think she had two goals and at least one of their assists. It really helped us having Marissa back this time. As I like to say, she’s the kind of player who does the dirty work in the middle of the field that doesn’t show up in the stats.”
Still, it was Notre Dame that posed the early scoring threats last Thursday, with SCH’s Curry stopping a shot at close range by Maggie O”Brien and a ball launched from the outside by another freshman for the Irish, Emma Kichula.
On one of the first charges for the hosts, McCool was flagged for being offsides, and later fellow SCH senior co-captain Ashley Carabajal had a shot from the right side of the box stopped by AND keeper Lucy Van Kula. On a corner kick from the right McCool sent a good serve into the middle, but at the time one of the Devils’ best threats for a head ball shot, sophomore Grace Rorke, was momentarily on the sideline.
Notre Dame came back up on offense, and with the first half about a dozen minutes from its conclusion, a ball bouncing loose near the right post of the Springside Chestnut Hill cage was cleared out by freshman Nayah Moore.
The Blue Devils’ McCool and McNesby went on an offensive foray together, and when McNesby tapped the ball past a defender and across the 18, her senior teammate ran onto the ball and booted it straight into the middle of the cage.
That first marker came with 6:39 remaining in the opening period, and what proved to be the gamewinner went up on the board with 1:03 to go. Carrying the ball into the box a little right of center, McNesby drew a bead on the goal as visiting keeper Van Kula charged out towards her.
When the SCH sophomore shot, the ball bounced back to her off of the AIS goalie, and this time McNesby popped it past her and into the net.
Down by two points at the break, Notre Dame came back out to generate a good deal of offensive activity in the first 10 minutes of the new half, to no avail. The Blue Devils eventually got off their heels, but when freshman Mo’ne Davis crossed the ball from near the right corner the visitors’ Van Kula was able to grab the ball the instant before McCool arrived.
A little over a dozen minutes in, the Irish came back down the pitch to earn a corner kick, then sent the ball across the face of the goal without a meaningful touch inside. Soon after that, SCH’s McCool and McNesby advanced in tandem up the middle. The senior carried the ball up to the 18 while McNesby made a run to McCool’s right, received a pass, and placed the ball into the lower right corner with 26:24 remaining in the game.
Four minutes later, McClernon drilled an outside shot just over the center of the home team’s crossbar, and the AND star finally found the back of the Blue Devils’ net with 18:07 on the ticker. Six minutes later, the Irish set up for a direct kick just beyond the box on the left. The ball was hit to the far side, where the outstretched hand of Curry deflected it at the right post and Rorke then cleared it out of the danger zone.
Later on, Notre Dame had no one able to get to a promising cross from the left endline by Kichula, and before long the final whistle sounded to certify Springside Chestnut Hill’s 3-1 win.