by Tom Utescher
With Mount St. Joe junior Emilee Ehret closing in on her left, Sacred Heart’s Lara Haab (#33) aims for the Magic’s goal, but rock steady senior defender Laura Pacheco (right foreground with ball in front of stick) is there to block the shot before it reaches MSJ sophomore goalie Christina Black (right rear). (Photo by Tom Utescher)
Their first goal didn’t go into the books until just four minutes remained in the opening half of last Thursday’s field hockey match, but the Mount St. Joseph Academy Magic eventually expanded a 1-0 halftime edge into a 3-0 victory over visiting Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. The Magic remained undefeated, with a 6-0 mark that includes five Catholic Academies victories and a non-league win at Pennsbury High School.
The goals were evenly distributed between three Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduates, senior twins Brooke and Allie Sabia (who have both committed to play at the University of Massachusetts) and junior Anne Burgoyne. Burgoyne helped set up the first half goal by Brooke Sabia, and her own goal was assisted by a junior classmate, Wyndmoor’s Emilee Ehret. Lafayette Hill native Christina Black, a sophomore, made three saves for the shutout. In fact, Black and the Magic have not given up a goal thus far in the 2011 campaign, an encouraging sign given that most of the Magic’s graduation losses from the 2010 team were on the defensive end, including Kat Matchett, now a freshman starting in goal at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
A scheduled meeting between the Mount and perennial AACA rival Villa Maria Academy was rained out the week of Labor Day; instead their first clash will occur at Villa this Friday in Malvern. Just before that encounter with the Mount, Villa is slated to face a test from Wissahickon High School, but as of the end of last week, the Hurricanes owned a 6-0 record that included a 4-2 win over Girls Inter-Ac League co-leader Notre Dame.
Rain clouds took a break for the Mount-Sacred Heart contest last Thursday, and at one point the crowd looked up to see a bright yellowish disk reportedly known as “The Sun.” Downpours returned the following day, washing out an eagerly anticipated match on Christopher Dock’s pristine artificial turf field.
On Thursday, the Magic were hosting a game in their own stadium for the first time this season. The ground was still soggy and the grass fairly long, making for a significantly “slower” playing surface than the old MSJ practice (and game) field.
“We haven’t been on this field at all so it really wasn’t a home team advantage,” pointed out co-coach Christina Peruto Post. “I feel the girls play much better on a faster field, and we weren’t able to use our speed on this slow grass.”
The Magic’s passing game did not tick along with its usual precision at first, and there were several near misses at the visitors’ goal where the timing seemed just a tad off for the hosts. Sacred Heart has the smallest enrollment of the AACA schools, but hockey is always one of its strongest sports and the Lions aren’t to be taken lightly. The Bryn Mawr bunch posed a few threats up in the Mount circle before the Magic began to recover their customary form and got on the board (courtesy of Brooke Sabia) with 3:40 remaining in the first stanza.
At halftime, related Peruto Post, “Mostly we talked about the fact that we were clogging up the center of the field trying to take the ball through there. We were making it harder on ourselves, and we needed to play smarter and use our outletting better. Mentally, they already know not to force the ball up the middle, but sometimes the adrenalin during a game gets the better of them.”
A dozen minutes into the second half, Burgoyne reinforced the Magic’s lead off of a feed from Ehret. The Lions called time-out and then went on the attack for a spell, but the only goal in the remaining minutes belonged to the Mount, which had Allie Sabia score with 9:42 on the clock.
With the Magic earning 10 penalty corners to the visitors’ four, Lions goalie Taylor Brady faced considerable pressure, and finished with 10 saves.
The Mount had replaced a longstanding starter in goal with a sophomore – a proposition potentially fraught with risk, so Peruto Post was thrilled that her team has shut out all of its first six rivals.
“We’ve been pushing Christina [Black] to talk and we want her to really direct that ‘D’,” the Mount mentor said. “She’s very coachable and she’s stepped up and done the things we’ve asked her to do. The fact that she’s only a sophomore is exciting.”
The Mount’s most experienced defender, senior Laura Pacheco, has been joined deep in the circle by sophomore Millie Stefanowicz, the only freshman who spent the entire 2010 season on the varsity squad.
“Today Laura and Millie did a great job in the back clearing it out,” noted Peruto Post. “Emilee Ehret’s been really steady holding the center in front of them. Today we switched and dropped Brooke back there as the center person, and she did great, too.”
Senior Katie Gozdon was often observed transporting the ball up into the midfield, and Peruto Post revealed, “Our regular left outside, Cara Beale, was sick, but Dana Scott filled in well.”
Both Beale and Scott are sophomores, and there is a freshman forward, Chrissy Pascali, who has arrived ready for varsity prime time. Her sister, Mary Kate, is a former Mount defender who graduated in June.
“There were some things that were a given coming into the season, like the Sabias and Anne Burgoyne being so good at getting to the ball off the [opposing goalie’s] pads,” related Peruto Post. “What I’m really glad to see is how well younger girls have adapted to taking on key roles at the varsity level.”
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