Mount lacrosse heading to States as a fourth seed

by Tom Utescher
Posted 6/2/21

After cruising through the first two rounds of the PIAA District 1 Class 2A lacrosse tournament two weeks ago, third-seeded Mount St. Joseph Academy found rough going last week in its final two …

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Mount lacrosse heading to States as a fourth seed

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After cruising through the first two rounds of the PIAA District 1 Class 2A lacrosse tournament two weeks ago, third-seeded Mount St. Joseph Academy found rough going last week in its final two district matches.

At number two Strath Haven High School for a semifinal game last Tuesday, the Mount trailed by 10 goals at the half. The Magic played better in the second period, but still fell, 17-10.

On Thursday the match to determine the third and fourth seeds going out of the district into the state tournament ended up being the Mount's third meeting this spring with Catholic Academies rival Villa Maria. The teams had split in their home/away series and had beaten everyone else in the AACA, so bragging rights were up for grabs in Mount vs. Villa version 3.0.

Over the first 10 minutes of the second half, Mount St. Joe expanded a one-goal halftime lead (5-4) into a three-goal margin at 8-5. Villa, the fourth seed for the District tourney, roared back to outscore the host Mounties 6-0 the rest of the way. With the win, the 'Canes claimed the three-seed for District 1 for placement in the state tournament bracket, and the Mount was number four.

The PIAA state bracket puts the fourth seed from District 1 up against the champion from District 12, which is made up of schools in the Philadelphia Catholic League and Philadelphia Public League. As usual, Archbishop Carroll as emerged as the D12 winner, and will present a major challenge for Mount St. Joseph.

Last Tuesday's district semifinal opponent for the Magic, Strath Haven, traditionally has a strong program and plays in the demanding Central League, where it finished fourth this spring behind three class 3A schools. The league champ, Conestoga High School, suffered its first loss on Tuesday (to Unionville) after ranking in the U.S. top 10 throughout the season.

Strath Haven was on the board half-a-minute into the game thanks to Devon Maillet, but the Magic answered with their own Devon, senior Devon McGarvey. With just over three minutes elapsed she converted off of a free position, and with 20:53 remaining in the first half she drove in from the right wing to score again, putting the Mount up, 2-1.

This score held up for three-and-a-half minutes. The Panthers' Maillet captured the subsequent draw and dashed down field for a shot that was turned aside by MSJ's Shields. The Mount keeper also made a stop against the hosts' Danielle McNeely, while at the other end McGarvey came close to scoring a third goal, narrowly missing the top left corner of the Panthers' cage.

Placing a shot just over Shields' head and under the middle of the crossbar, Dylan Cohen tied the game (2-2) at 17:11. Less than a minute later Laura Connor cut past several defenders to receive a pass close to the crease. She scored, and Strath Haven had a lead it never lost.

Shields saved another shot by Connor soon after that, and at the far end the hosts' goalie, Erin Spaulding, stopped a low free-position shot by MSJ sophomore Devon Loome, a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate.

With 14 minutes left in the period, McNeely made it 4-2 as she tucked the ball into top left corner. The Panthers gained total control in as the clock dropped from 11:25 to 3:02 remaining in the first half, funneling in eight goals in a little over eight minutes. It was 12-2 at the break.

It appeared that Strath Haven attackers were penetrating the Mount defense just a little too easily.

"In the beginning, we did lose the draw control," commented Magic head coach Dipi Bhaya. "We had some trouble early in the game on defense with the sliding, and we fixed that."

The coach remarked about the physical nature of the game, saying "We were getting pushed around a lot and it wasn't controlled, and that threw us. I think this game was unsafe, there were a lot of situations where things got out of hand. At halftime we said something, and in the second half some yellow cards were given out."

Strath Haven was penalized 36 seconds into the second half, and later in the opening minute Mount senior Maggie Woolley (another Norwood alum) scored from just off the crease on the left side. About three minutes in the Magic scored again to make it 12-4, with junior Lauren Maher finding McGarvey with a pass as she cut in from the right.

The Panthers quelled the uprising with three consecutive goals, and later, as the clock dipped under the 10-minute mark, the home team led 17-6. Two minutes later Shields stopped a free position shot by the Panthers, and as Strath Haven deployed more of its reserves, Mount St. Joseph was able to score the last four goals of the evening.

The Mount's McGarvey and Strath Haven's McNeely shared game-high scoring honors with five goals apiece. For the Mount Wooley added a hat trick, and Maher (two assists) and sophomore Kate Donovan scored the other two goals. The Panthers' Maillet deposited four goals and Connor had three.

Coach Bhaya remarked, "We could've done a better job on some things, but I'm proud of the way we played hard all the way to the end."

This set up Thursday's three/four seeding game against Villa Maria, which the higher-seeded Mount hosted at 1:00 PM thanks to an early dismissal day at the Mount and a prom for the Villa girls. The Hurricanes had lost in Tuesday's other semifinal, 16-7, to top-seeded Bishop Shanahan.

Villa's Maggie Carden, a senior headed to Tufts University, got the visitors on the board first with five-and-a-half minutes elapsed, but it wasn't long until MSJ's Kate Donovan answered. The 1-1 tie stayed on the board for nine minutes, then Carden's second strike for the visitors drew a response from Maher to make it 2-2 about eight minutes before halftime.

The Magic moved ahead 4-2 as McGarvey put in back-to-back goals. The Hurricanes got one back on a free position, but with 2:36 left in the period the lead went back to two goals when Maher scored on a sidearm bouncer. Villa had the last word in the half, scoring with 12 seconds left to make it 5-4 at the intermission.

Campbell Donovan, a junior out of Norwood who took most of the draws for the Mount, opened the second-half scoring with a little under three minutes gone. Two minutes later Villa's Clara Meehan responded, but then the Mounties earned their largest lead of the game on goals by sophomore Ava Rossi and by her classmate Kate Donovan.

This put the Magic up 8-5 with 15:13 remaining, but they wouldn't score again and they were eventually passed by the visitors.

Just as the clock ticked under 14 minutes the Hurricanes started their comeback as Allie Meyer came to the crease on the right side and found the top left corner. Villa players had realized they had to be creative shooters in order to beat the Mount's talented Shields. Goals with 12:55 and 12:10 left in the game brought the visitors even at 8-8.

Shields turned aside shots just before and after the 10-minute mark to keep the Magic from falling behind. Eventually, though, the 'Canes' best attacker, Carden, notched the go-ahead goal with 7:05 remaining.

The Magic did have opportunities at the other end, but VMA keeper Kyla Branco seemed to have figured out where the chief Mount attackers were going to shoot the ball. The Magic had become predictable, and usually didn't force the Villa goalie to move very much in order to make saves.

Yellow cards also hampered the hosts during the second half, and over the last four minutes the Hurricanes reinforced their lead with two more markers. Mount St. Joe was attacking at the end of the game, and Villa's Branca made her last save against MSJ freshman Amelia Clair with half-a-minute left.

The Mount marked down two goals apiece for Maher, McGarvey, and Kate Donovan. The multiple goal scorers for Villa Maria were Carden (four), Meehan (three), and Kaelyn Wolfe (two).

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