Mount St. Joe senior Olivia Gannon (right) drives to goal against a fierce Garnet Valley foe. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

After winning four straight lacrosse games by double-digit margins, Mount St. Joseph Academy went 1-1 late last week against a pair of much more formidable opponents.

Fortunately for the Magic, last Saturday’s 9-5 setback came in a non-league encounter with Garnet Valley High School, while two days earlier the Mount had recorded a major Catholic Academies victory against defending league champ and longtime power Merion Mercy, 16-13.

With Thursday’s outcome at Merion, Mount St. Joe attained a league record of 8-1 and pulled into a tie with the Golden Bears for first place in the AACA standings. The Magic ended the week at 10-2 overall following the loss to Boyertown, which snapped an eight-game win streak for the Mounties.

The string of victories began right after the team’s first confrontation with Merion, back on April 2. On their home field, the Magic came out on the short end of a high scoring affair, 22-17. After that, they went on a roll, and in the last four contests in their eight-game surge, they flattened their opponents, beating three of the league’s lesser lights, and also venturing up to Souderton High School to log a 15-5 win.

The last of these easy outings was a 21-1 romp over AACA colleague Nazareth Academy on Tuesday of last week, but in the wake of that pleasure cruise, the Mount St. Joe players knew they’d have to raise their level of play went they went on the road Thursday for their rematch with Merion Mercy.

“At Merion we were on; it was a complete team effort,” stated first-year head coach Lindsey Colferai. “We weren’t nervous and we just kind of went out with reckless abandon. The biggest thing early in the game was the mental toughness after we got down 0-3.”

The Magic quickly caught up, and from there the score seesawed to 8-8 by halftime.

“I told them we needed to go on a run and build momentum, and we had to tighten up our defense,” Colferai recounted.

The Golden Bears’ Caroline Corzel, who scored eight times in Merion’s win over the Mount at the beginning of April, was limited to three goals last week, and MSJ senior goalie Alex Lista (who will play for The College of William and Mary) finished with six saves.

At the other end, MSJ senior Olivia Gannon was tearing it up. The Villanova signee amassed seven goals and two assists in the game, and sophomore Christie Mischler logged four goals and one assist. The other multiple scorer, with two goals, was Drexel-bound senior Dom Nyzio, who attended Norwood Fontbonne Academy along with Gannon.

Emilee Ehret (who will play field hockey at Penn State), contributed one goal and two assists, and there were other single strikes for senior Marley Breslin and freshman Meredith Bohner.

It’s not easy for high school athletes to maintain a high intensity level in closely-spaced games against strong opponents, and after the emotional league win over Merion, the Mounties never really hit their stride against Garnet Valley on Saturday. The Jaguars were a daunting rival; playing a tough schedule, they were bringing in an 8-4 record that included a double-overtime loss to ever-powerful Radnor High School.

“I really think we got psyched out,” said MSJ mentor Colferai. “I could see from when we stepped on the field that we weren’t on the same page whatsoever. When we’re not playing together it’s very apparent, and they also outhustled us completely.”

After Garnet Valley converted off of a three-second call just 90 seconds into the match, the Jaguars never trailed, but the Mount stayed with them up to 4-4. Cutting inside from out to the left of the goal, Nyzio took a feed from Ehret up top to tie the game at 1-1.

Garnet Valley seized a 3-1 lead with 19 minutes left in the first half, but then had a player sent off with a yellow card (head check) at 17:34. Right on the crease, MSJ’s Mischler put in a backhander just 25 seconds later, and off of the following draw, the Magic broke downfield and tied the match 3-3 on marker by Bohner. Ehret earned her second assist on Mischler’s goal.

Garnet Valley went back up, 4-3, but again the Mount answered, with Gannon coming in from the far left hash mark and depositing a low shot, tying the contest for the final time with 6:24 to go in the first period.

Starting at 5:36, Garnet Valley took control by funneling in three goals in a little over a minute.

The count was still 7-4 at halftime, after a desperate, final-second shot by junior Natalie Bohner (Meredith’s sister) missed the cage.

The Jaguars maintained their momentum during the second half, not adding much to their score but controlling play. Their eighth and ninth goals of the day were sandwiched around the lone marker for the Mount, which belonged to Breslin (assist: Gannon). Garnet Valley passed the ball around for the last few minutes, and the pursuit by the Mounties seemed to lack energy and enthusiasm.

“I think in the [second] Merion game, we played the kind of lacrosse we’ve been playing most of the season,” Colferai said after Saturday’s setback. “We still need to be more consistent, because we do have some lapses in games where we don’t play together. Most of the time, we’re able to pull out of that, but we couldn’t today.”

Jaguars junior Sabrina Fusco, who led all scorers with a hat trick, has made a verbal commitment to play for Division II Millersville University.

Garnet Valley has four other players who have either signed with or made verbal commitments to Division I colleges. One of them, defender Julia McGrath, will be a William and Mary teammate of Mount goalkeeper Lista, who had 12 saves in Saturday’s game.

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