by Tom Utescher
In an Inter-Ac League field hockey game late last week, the team that came out on the short end could claim it had suffered a bad luck loss due to the fact that it was Friday the 13th.
When the contest at Penn Charter was over, you could suggest that the visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy squad had good luck, or you could simply point out that it had Sarah Edelson. The Blue Devils junior scored all of her team’s goals in a 3-0 victory over the host Quakers, and sophomore Shannon McNally recorded 13 saves for her shutout.
“Sarah knows how to read the defenders really well and dribble the ball up the field,” SCH head coach Katie Mersky said of her leading scorer.
As her team rose to an overall record of 7-6-1, Mersky also observed, “Shannon had some awesome saves, and [junior] Catie Brook controlled communication in the back. That’s something we’ve been working on; the players love to talk to each other off the field, but we’ve got to do more of it on the field.”
The Blue Devils, who had beaten Charter 4-0 in an earlier meeting this season, owned a 2-4 record in the league following Friday’s victory. At the request of another league member, Baldwin School, SCH had played its JV team against the Bears’ varsity. so the successful outcome of that game does not figure into the Blue Devil varsity’s record.
Penn Charter arrived at the middle of October with a mark of 2-8 overall. PC had played Baldwin in a straight-up varsity game, winning 2-0 on goals by junior Alexa Lenfest and freshman Kaylee Dyer. Freshman goalie Zora Johnson secured the shutout.
In six other Inter-Ac games (so far, SCH is the first team that PC has played twice), the Quakers have found goals hard to come by. In these league setbacks, Charter has deposited just one goal overall.
After Friday’s match, second-year PC head coach Steve Wagner explained, “We did everything right on the field and we had a lot of possession, but we just couldn’t put the ball in the goal. The players understand our style and our strategy. They understand how to pass the ball and they understand spacing, so it’s just a matter of executing our skills and finishing.”
Springside Chestnut Hill made the initial offensive foray on Friday, but it was PC senior Catherine McInerney who inserted the ball on the first penalty corner of the game. The play was broken up by the SCH defenders charging out of the goalmouth.
“This was our third game of the week, and we have a Homecoming game tomorrow,” the Blue Devils’ Mersky pointed out. “I think we were sort of feeling the grind of the week, and it took a little while for us to establish momentum.”
Senior Grace Yang made the insertion on an SCH corner about eight minutes in. Edelson made the stop at the top of the circle and sent the ball back down low, but it ended up rolling out of bounds near the right post off of another Springside stick.
In the other circle, Lenfest got off a shot for Charter and the visitors’ McNally blocked the ball with a leg pad. A little later, a corner did not lead directly to a shot for the Quakers.
With just under 11 minutes left in the first half, a Blue Devil assault into the circle drew PC keeper Johnson out of the cage and Edelson settled a loose ball and drove it into the goal. On a similar play, the SCH junior was able to shoot past the keeper from about four meters out in the middle of the circle. The visitors now led 2-0 with 7:18 on the clock, and that score stood until halftime.
Speaking about his ninth-grade netminder, Wagner said, “Zora played in middle school, but she’s still learning about the varsity level. What we need to do is relieve some of the pressure on her by scoring goals. Catherine [McInerney] helps on defense – she’s very solid in the back and we can rely on her.”
Throughout the game, it was impossible not to notice how many times the ball was on the stick of SCH’s Mackenzie Ramsey, the only other senior on the roster besides Yang.
Commenting on her impressive work rate, Coach Mersky said, “She’s fantastic. She can go from defense to offense and dribble the ball all the way down the field. She’s also learned to be patient defending and choose the right time for ball tackles.”
The visitors earned a few penalty corners early in the second half, but they did not lead to any truly threatening shots. Penn Charter then went on the attack for a number of minutes, starting with a corner with eight minutes elapsed in the new period. Here, a shot by junior Elisabeth Ross was blocked, and not long after that the Quakers crossed the ball from right to left across the Devils’ goal and senior Ava Nicolucci narrowly missed getting a stick on the ball at the far post.
Another senior, Lily Carpenter, launched a shot from the top of the circle and had the ball kicked away by the visitors’ McNally. A little later, Lenfest came close on a tip-in attempt.
After McNally made another save against the Quakers, the Blue Devils called time-out with 16:20 remaining in the game. When the action started up again Charter kept pressuring the visitors’ defense for a few more minutes, then SCH finally went on the attack. The Devils were unable to convert on a pair of penalty corners, and a PC corner at the other end also came to naught.
“We only have two or three players who play club field hockey,” Coach Wagner said, “so they’re not getting that training all year around. That helps with the details, like knowing when to lift your stick and shoot and when to push the ball.”
Springside’s Edelman has proven adept at her short game in the circle, and works well in traffic. She demonstrated this again with just under seven-and-a-half minutes left to play, when she completed her hat trick by scoring out of a group of players clumped in front of the PC cage.
To their credit, the Quakers continued to battle, taking three corners in the last five minutes. Still, they could not find the backboard.
In her team’s victories, Mersky noted, the Blue Devils have played particularly well in the middle of the field.
“We’re strong there.” she said, “We have Sarah and Mackenzie and Delaney [Sweitzer, a junior] right in the center, and Kianah [Watson, another junior] is there in the back, as well.
“We’re a young team, in general,” she continued. “We have four freshmen starting and a total of 20 of them out for field hockey, so the prospects look good for the future.”