Mount sophomore Abby Aita (left) protects the ball from Amelia Pillone of Merion Mercy Academy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Mount sophomore Abby Aita (left) protects the ball from Amelia Pillone of Merion Mercy Academy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The lacrosse game between Mount St. Joseph and league leader Merion Mercy back on April 1 was a 20-10 romp for the Main Line club, but late in the first half of last Monday’s rematch, the host MSJ Magic only trailed 6-5.

The Golden Bears deposited two more goals before halftime, though, and they continued to draw away in the second period, winning 13-7.

The Magic received two goals apiece from sophomore M.K. Maloney and freshman Casey McKeever, and markers by senior Natalie Bohner (two assists), sophomore Izzy Balcer, and freshman Kateri Krause filled out the total. Freshman goalie Maggie McDonald made 10 saves for the Mount, which came away with a league mark of 6-5 and an overall record of 8-7.

Merion’s balanced scoring included a hat trick for junior Caroline Corzel and two goals apiece for seniors Olivia Nostrant (daughter of Haverford School coach John Nostrant), Ro Hurley and Katie Fitzpatrick, as well as two each by sophomore Jackie Benedict and freshman Caroline Steller. With sophomore keeper Lauren Thomas stopping eight Mount shots, the Golden Bears improved to 7-0 in the league and 8-2 overall.

“Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough gas to keep it close for 50 minutes,” remarked MSJ coach Lindsey Colferai, who pointed out that a number of veteran players had been benched for the day for missing a team commitment. “We had a couple of big holes on defense, and the underclassmen stepped up and played well, but when Merion started to pull away I think our confidence was shaken a little bit.”

The Mounties looked like they might be in trouble from the outset as Steller and Hurley gave the visitors a 2-0 lead with less than two minutes elapsed, but four minutes in Bohner sent a pass from the top of the arc down to McKeever near the left post, and the freshman converted.

Over the next 11 minutes the Golden Bears rang up three goals while the Magic received one from Bohner, but at least the MSJ defense wasn’t letting Merion accumulate an insurmountable lead.

Mount St. Joe got right back in it with two closely-spaced goals with 5:45 and 5:26 remaining in the opening period. When McKeever scored her second of the day to make it 5-3, Merion called a time-out, but the Mount captured the subsequent draw and Bohner got the ball inside to Krause, who drove at the right post and scored to make it a one-goal game.

Now it was Merion who scooped up the ball off the draw and struck quickly, with Nostrant putting the Bears back up by two with 5:18 on the clock.

The flurry of offensive activity continued, with the Mount drawing within one point 16 seconds later. Balcer drove up the middle and shot over into the left side of the Bears’ cage, but this would be the last goal the Magic would score until late in the second half.

After another 19 seconds, Corzel countered for Merion. A yellow card on the visitors with four minutes left in the half gave Mount St. Joe a numerical advantage, but the visitors wound up in possession of the ball for most of the two-minute span. Nostrant, who had committed the penalty, redeemed herself by returning to action to cash in off a free position with 16 seconds left in the period.

The Magic came up with the final draw of the half, but a rushed shot by Bohner was saved at the upper left corner by Merion’s Thomas, preserving the Bears’ 8-5 lead for the intermission.

That score remained on the board for another 10 minutes as the second half unfolded. Merion killed a penalty at 17:42, then began scoring again when Corzel bounced in a free-position shot with 14:20 left to play. The visitors came right back down off the draw and Hurley made it 10-5. The MSJ defense had held up fairly well up to this point, but the Magic couldn’t get much going on the offensive end.

“We stopped scoring because we weren’t seeing all our options and we weren’t really challenging hard on attack,” Colferai said. “I think when we were down on defense for awhile and then went up on offense, no one wanted to make a mistake and drop the ball. Because we’d kept the game close in the first half, it was like we became afraid to mess up, and as a group we weren’t as aggressive on attack as we needed to be.”

After a brief respite for the MSJ defense, Merion scored all of its last three goals in a half-minute span as the clock dropped from 11:01 to 10:33 remaining.

The Mount’s Maloney went off with a yellow card with eight minutes left, but came back to net the Magic’s first goal of the second half with 4:52 to go. In the next minute, Maloney carried the ball upfield in transition and delivered it to Bohner. Going to goal, the senior had the ball checked away, but Maloney picked it up and quickly got off a successful shot, putting the final score on the board.

Afterwards, Colferai praised her young goalkeeper, McDonald.

“In games like this, she’s facing a lot of tough shooters, and she’s still only a freshman,” the coach commented. “She’s getting more confidence, though, as she gets more experience. She’s improving at playing the angles, and at talking to her defenders.”