by Tom Utescher
Last Tuesday the field hockey squads from Germantown Academy and Springside Chestnut Hill braved a chilly rain during a second-round match-up in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament.
Third-seeded GA, the host team, received goals from senior Colleen Carrigan and freshman Sophie Towne to lead 2-0 at the half. SCH, the sixth seed, made it a one-goal game thanks to a strike by junior Sarah Edelson in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but a goal by junior Sammy Popper and a second strike for the young Towne sealed a 4-1 Patriot victory.
In goal, Blue Devils sophomore goalie Shannon McNally made 13 saves for the visitors. Springside Chestnut Hill made GA’s Hannah Santos work hard, as well; the Stanford-bound senior stopped nine shots for the victors.
SCH ended its season with an overall record of 8-11-1, and was 2-8 within the Inter-Ac League.
Against the Baldwin School varsity, both GA and SCH played their junior varsity teams, as per the Bears’ request.
After Tuesday’s tilt at GA, a soggy Carrigan noted, “The weather was not great, and they’re always an aggressive, competitive type of team. I think sometimes it takes us a little while to wake up, but we do eventually.”
SCH head coach Katie Mersky said of her charges, “This game was a testament to how hard they’ve worked this season. We had it at 2-1 for a bit in the second half.
“I’m proud of the way the team has developed,” she continued. “They play really well together as a team, and some individual players stepped up today to show what they had.”
In the home/away Inter-Ac series between the two teams GA won twice, 5-0 and then 1-0. On the second occasion, the Patriots’ Popper was off helping the U.S. National Indoor team win the Women’s Indoor Pan American Cup in Guyana, where she was named Junior Player of the Tournament.
The Patriots applied a lot of pressure from the start of Tuesday’s PAIS quarterfinal, but it took them awhile to get on the board. In the meantime, they earned most of the penalty corners that would lead to their 11-0 advantage in this category for the first half.
With 11:24 left in the opening period, GA inserted the ball on a corner and it was passed to Carrigan by sophomore Maddi Ota. Carrigan, who will continue her career at Wesleyan University, drove the ball hard up the gut and it deflected into the cage off a defender’s stick.
Around four minutes later, SCH junior Colebe Oliver helped lead an attack through the right side of the circle, but it ended with the ball going out over the endline outside the near post.
GA came back down into the Springside circle, and twice in the span of about a dozen seconds a Patriot and a Blue Devil locked the ball between their two sticks and arm wrestled for possession. Following these stick stalemates, a reverse sweep by Popper went wide to the right of the cage with under four minutes left in the half.
With 2:51 on the clock, Popper pounded a shot that the Devils’ McNally stopped with a leg pad, but GA’s Towne was right on the spot to put away the rebound. The period would end with the hosts ahead, 2-0.
GA head coach Jackie Connard commented, “During the first 10 minutes we had a lot of corners and couldn’t get the ball in, and then our first goal was sort of lucky, with that deflection. We told the girls just to keep going hard, and it was a matter of time before one of those chances became a goal.”
The SCH players knew they needed to get on the board relatively quickly in the second half to really stay in contention. Around five minutes in, they turned up the heat on Santos in the GA cage. After making back-to-back kick saves following one penalty corner, the Pats’ keeper slid down to block the ball on her right side, and soon had to dive to her left to slap another shot away.
When SCH did score with 21:41 left in the match, it wasn’t off a scrum in the goalmouth. Edelson dribbled in from the left wing into the circle and found the backboard on a long, hard shot.
GA’s Connard noted, “This year Springside has been a feisty, hardworking team. They have an aggressive attitude, and I think playing teams like that makes you better.”
The Springside Chestnut Hill goal sparked a sense of urgency in the Patriots, who soon added an insurance goal at 19:42 on a strong shot by Popper from the left side of the circle.
On the second of two GA corners over the next few minutes, Popper received the ball on the left and sent it across to Carrigan high on the right. She whacked the ball down toward the near post, and Towne tapped the ball in from in front of the goal. The 4-1 final tally was now on the board with 15:43 remaining.
On GA restarts, opposing teams are naturally focused on Popper, and most are also aware that Carrigan is a threat, as well.
“Teams usually face-guard Sammy, so then maybe it’ll come to me,” said the senior, who is a team co-captain along with classmate Maddie Cooper. “We try to move the ball around. If the other team comes out really fast on a corner, we try to bring it around to someone else and try to find the holes in the center or down by post.”
Unable to score again, SCH had battled gamely nonetheless, and for long stretches the contest appeared closer than the final three-goal margin suggests. As usual, SCH senior mid Mackenzie Ramsey was all over the field, and there was some solid defensive work from the likes of juniors Kianah Watson, Delaney Sweitzer and Nahla Turner.
Referring to Ramsey and fellow senior co-captain Grace Yang, the Blue Devils’ Mersky observed, “We lose only two players from this team, and we’re hoping to get in some new young ones. This isn’t the main sport for a lot of the girls, but we have some really strong athletes who are putting in work outside of the school season.”