by Tom Utescher

For the Germantown Academy girls’ soccer team, an Inter-Ac match early last week had the makings of a “trap” game.

First, it was being played on a Monday; league contests usually take place on Tuesdays and Fridays, but the schedule had been bumped up a day due to the upcoming Columbus Day long weekend. After winning five straight games overall and their first three league games (including victories over 2017 Inter-Ac champion Episcopal Academy and Pa. Independent Schools champ Springside Chestnut Hill), the Patriots were taking on the Academy of Notre Dame, a squad that finished 1-11 in league play a year ago.

The Irish surprised the Pats by jumping out to an early lead in GA’s Carey Stadium. It only took five minutes for senior Katie Hackley to tie things up at 1-1, but that score stayed on the board until the game went into overtime. Finally, senior Riley Axenroth converted off of a corner kick to give the hosts a 2-1 win and a 4-0 mark in the league.

“It certainly seemed like a Monday,” remarked GA head coach Chris Nelson. “I felt like we were flat in the first half, and it wasn’t until the second half that we got out feet under us. Notre Dame was all over us at the beginning and got that early goal, which they totally deserved.”

For several seasons, GA had two talented classmates, current juniors Lily Altmomare and Meaghan Toscano, sharing time in the goal cage. It started out that way this fall, too, but just before Inter-Ac competitiom began, Toscano switched to water polo. Her primary sport is track and field, where she has set new league records in the shot put several times.

A third keeper, senior Alex Herrman, would now take on a more important role, and in late September she recorded a shutout in a non-league victory over Lawrenceville School. She would be called into action against Notre Dame when Altomare left the field with an injury late in the first half.

Altomare made an early save when the visitors earned the first corner kick of the game, and in the second minute the Irish stopped a shot by speedy GA sophomore Paige Lugossy. More than a month into the season, Germantown has been dealing with some injuries, like many teams. The Patriots have a fairly deep pool of talent, though, thanks in part to young players like freshman starters Lilly Funk and Cassidy Palazzo.

Near the end of the first 10 minutes, an outside shot by the Irish was stopped by Altomare and at the other end a ball hit by Hackley was deflected wide of the goal.

The resulting corner kick for GA fizzled when the ball was cleared upfield by a Notre Dame back, and 10 minutes and 20 seconds into the game the Irish got on the board with a long strong shot by Emma Kichula, who is also a starting forward on Notre Dame’s basketball team.

The Patriots perked up and pressed the attack, tying the game with 24:41 remaining in the first half on a shot that Hackley drove from the left side of the 18 into the far corner of the cage.

GA had a number of chances to take the lead later in the period, but none came to fruition. Instead, at the defensive end the hosts lost Altomare to an injury with 3:36 to go before halftime.

The Patriots continued to attack in the second half, but the timing on their connecting passes and through passes seemed a little bit off.

Coach Nelson commented, “We didn’t play smoothly – we didn’t always find feet and find the open player – but we played with more intensity and put pressure on them. Still, we never really passed the way we usually can.”

After GA pushed up on offense for the early minutes of the second half, earning a corner kick that didn’t yield a shot, Notre Dame made a run down the left wing that was thwarted by Patriots junior Elizabeth Van Blarcum, and a little later the Irish took a corner kick that didn’t lead to a shot.

A Notre Dame back headed away a corner kick and then the Irish stopped a direct kick by GA junior Kiley Kergides. In front of the Patriots’ goal, Herrmann dove to cover the ball when the Irish made a threatening run in the middle of the second period. With around 14 minutes left, AND saved a strong shot on the ground by Palazzo.

Notre Dame defenders were being instructed to always be aware of GA senior standout Ally Clark. With under a dozen minutes remaining, she made a nice cross inside from right to left, but a shot by Hackley struck a defender and the ball deflected out of danger. Clark is going to play for Columbia University, and Hackley will sign with the University of Delaware.

On a GA corner from the left, a header by Axenroth went wide to the right, then with eight minutes left a hard shot by Clark produced a rebound off the goalie and there wasn’t a Patriot in place to follow up.

In the late stages of regulation play and in overtime, Nelson related, “We were getting a lot of pressure on them, and we thought if we could just keep the ball in the box, sooner or later it would get to someone’s feet in the right place.”

In the middle of the Notre Dame box, GA’s Funk received a pass with her back to the goal, but an Irish defender prevented her from turning and getting off a viable shot. Soon the bout proceeded into overtime; two five-minute segments with no golden goal.

Early in the first OT the visiting keeper got to an outside shot by Hackley, and off of a corner kick a Clark header was deflected. Germantown successfully defended a Notre Dame corner at the other end, then came back up the pitch to earn another corner kick of its own. Axenroth, although a defender, often comes up to help out on set pieces on offense, but here she was far from the first option, stationed outside of the post on the weak side. Kergides took the kick from the left corner and somehow the ball was untouched as it bounced and rolled past a number of players and all the way across the face of the goal. Axenroth stepped in at the right post and poked the ball into the net, putting the final score on the board with 3:38 left in the first overtime period.

In the second five minute OT, both Lugossy and Funk came close to adding an insurance goal for the Patriots. Instead, there were some tense moments in the final 40 seconds as the Irish made one last assault. Herrmann kept a clean sheet in goal for her portion of the game, and GA improved to 4-0 in the league.

UPDATE – Later last week the Patriots lifted their league record to 5-0 with another overtime victory, prevailing 3-2 at Baldwin. Clark scored twice in regulation play, and Lugossy netted the winner in OT.

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