LOWER GWYNEDD >> The only thing hotter than the weather at Gwynedd Mercy Academy Thursday afternoon was Mount St. Joseph’s offensive attack.
The Magic possessed the ball for just about the entire opening 10 minutes and eventually got one past GMA goalie Kelly Hoffman halfway through the first half.
The lead never ballooned to more than two goals, but the Mount went on to a comfortable 3-1 win.
Sophomore Julianna Kratz put the Magic on the board with 16:31 left in the opening half. She found herself in front of the goal and ripped a slapshot into the back of the net.
“We can only hold off that intensity of attacking pressure for so long before there’s going to be a step back,” GMA coach Alex McMahan said. “It gets exhausting after a while, but I thought our defense really did well.”
That was the only goal in the first half, but it didn’t take long for the Mount to get going after intermission.
MSJ junior Grace Wallis scored a beautiful goal less than seven minutes into the second half to double her side’s lead to 2-0. Wallis stick-handled through multiple defenders before beating the goalie.
“She’s our little creator in the middle,” MSJ coach Tina Reinprecht said of Wallis. “You can see she can really break a game wide open with her quickness and speed and eliminate up the middle. What we hope to see down the road is her draw people and then find open people on either post.”
Nine minutes later, GMA’s Hailey Durkin cut the Monarchs’ deficit in half. At 14:09 she took a slapper from the right side and beat MSJ’s goalie to the far post.
It didn’t take long for the Magic to get the lead back to two.
At 11:35, Wallis lofted in her second goal of the game.
“Those first two minutes after anybody scores a goal are huge,” McMahan said. “It could be the worst mistake of the team’s game or it could be the best move that you make. It’s all mental. It’s staying focused for those two minutes and that’s something we have to improve on, too.”
The Mount’s consistent attack and pressure was the result of keeping the ball in Gwynedd’s end. Whenever the Monarch defenders tried to clear, the Magic knocked it down and went right back on offense.
“If you put a little pressure up top, the success of their outlet is going to be compromised a little bit,” Reinprecht said. “And I think we’re doing a little better job every game at putting some pressure up top so they just don’t have that free-wheeling connecting ball type thing. Yes, some balls are going to get through once again with a bounce, a hop, a skip — that kind of thing — but if you minimize their options on the outlet you’re going to knock some balls down like that.”
“Today was a good culmination for our defensive marking and communication,” McMahan said. “Our next game is going to be out-letting and getting the ball out and having a huge hit to relieve some of that pressure.”
The score could have been a lot worse if not for GMA’s Hoffman. She totaled 12 saves including one highlight-reel stop where she blocked a soft shot that was sailing over her head.
“Kelly has had a phenomenal season so far,” McMahan said. “She’s only going to get better. She’s been waiting in the wings for the last three years on varsity and she just hit the ground. She came into this season ready to take over that starting position and she’s not slipping. She’s fighting every single shot. The score would’ve been different without Kelly Hoffman.”