In a little five-on-five, Mount junior Olivia Gannon (right) is marked by her opposite number from Merion Mercy, Monica O’Hara. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

At the beginning of April, the Mount St. Joseph lacrosse team lost 14-13 to defending Catholic Academies champ Merion Mercy on Merion’s home field. For the last league game of the month, it was the Mount Magic who would be on familiar ground as they hosted Thursday’s rematch with those same Golden Bears.

Aware of the danger inherent in this little road trip, Merion made the Magic play catch-up from the start, and broke out of a 2-2 tie in the middle of the first half to score six of the next seven goals in the game. That made it 8-3 in favor of the Golden Bears with 15 minutes left to play, and the visitors maintained their advantage to win, 12-7.

Merion climbed to an overall record of 12-1 (losing only to the Academy of Notre Dame), and barring a major upset, its 10-0 league record should lead to the top seed for the AACA playoffs. For the Mount, the second setback against the Golden Bears was figured in with a loss in Florida during spring break to produce an overall mark of 10-3. The Magic were 8-2 in the league, with a rematch coming up against another strong AACA school, Villa Maria (the Mount won 7-6 in the initial meeting).

After Thursday’s clash, first-year MSJ coach Jen Duckenfield remarked “Our defense played well at times. They did a good job of holding the cutters and knocking down the pass, but we did not produce at the attacking end today. We shot right at their goalie, right at her stick. She’s more of a stationary goalie, and we played to her strength.”

Merion broke the ice five minutes in and the Mount kept pace with a man-up marker by Marley Breslin, who scored from close range off a pass from junior classmate Olivia Gannon at the top of the eight-meter arc. A second strike by the visitors was answered by Gannon, who side-armed a shot off of a free position with 12 minutes to go in the first half.

Soon, Merion got loose on a three-minute, 4-0 run which encompassed three of junior Julianne D’Orazio’s five goals on the day. After the Bears went up 3-2, the Magic had a chance to tie the bout on a wide-open breakaway, but couldn’t hit the shot. As Coach Duckenfield indicated, there were times when the Magic shooters seemed fixated on Merion keeper Caili Guilday (13 saves) instead of the open space around her; one second-half shot was aimed exactly in the center of the senior’s stick.

Freshman Christie Mischler came in through the right side of the arc to end the Magic’s offensive drought, but the visitors got that goal back near the end of the period to enjoy a 7-3 advantage at the interlude. Merion had displayed pinpoint passing in the close confines of the arc, as senior Bonnie McShane progressed towards a five-assist afternoon.

“They definitely threaded the needle with their passing,” Duckenfield concurred.

The Magic seized the second-half draw, but the Golden Bears’ Guilday repulsed MSJ shots by senior Laura Pacheco and junior Dominique Nyzio. The first Merion goal of the half was matched by Gannon, then back-to-back scores put the visitors up 10-4 with 11:25 remaining.

Nyzio countered with two straight goals, finding the net with an assist from sophomore Natalie Bohner, and then driving from the outside. The score was now 10-6 with six minutes to go, and Merion called a time-out to settle things down. Mount St. Joe had a chance to get within three as Bohner got open ahead of the offensive transition, but the pass to her was too low and the play was broken up.

Over the final four minutes, the teams exchanged goals before Merion freshman Caroline Corzel scored with two seconds left for the 12-7 final. Senior Burke Brabson scored the seventh goal for the Magic, who got two apiece from Nyzio and Gannon while junior goalie Alex Lista recorded 11 stops.

“In the Villa Maria game, we stayed poised and we were able to finish our shots,” Duckenfield said. “Today I think the girls got tight, and we didn’t play as smart as we can play. At the Mount we’re kind of going through a culture change – I actually refer to it as a culture shock – where we’re learning to really play consistently. We need to put two good halves together on a regular basis.”