LOWER GWYNEDD >> Madison Hornig closed her eyes and shot the ball.
When she opened them, the Mount Saint Joseph Academy freshman was a newly-minted hero. Hornig, whose name was written in on the gameday roster in pen, didn’t see her game winning goal, but it was a good one, a composed finish in overtime.
The result was a hard-fought 2-1 win for the Magic over rival Gwynedd Mercy Academy on Monday afternoon.
“I was afraid I was going to miss,” Hornig said. “I closed my eyes and shot it, I just kicked it.”
It was a heads-up play for the freshman, pouncing on a short pass on GMA’s back line and breaking into open space before she skimmed one along the ground and into the back corner of the net. A recent call-up, Hornig has earned her way to varsity minutes thanks to hard work and an intensity on the field.
It’s why she fits right in with the rest of the Magic. After a slow start to the season, Mount has been playing much better recently. Gwynedd won the teams’ first meeting 4-1 in early September but it was a different Mount group with a different temperament that took the field on Monday.
“We talked about keeping our intensity up and playing the way we’ve been playing,” Magic coach Bill Naydan said. “We played a great game today. Gwynedd’s one of our biggest rivals every year and we talked about keeping our emotions in check and going out there, playing our game and we did it.”
The entire match featured a lot of really good soccer with the teams playing pendulum with scoring opportunities and advances forward. Mount changed up its formation, going with a 3-4-3 but its defenders handled it extremely well, working to contain Gwynedd’s speed.
Likewise, the Monarchs switched some things up, an continuing growth with new coach Thomas Knoll. After graduating a core of exceptional seniors after last season, Knoll is attempting to mold the players he has into well-rounded players.
“I’m trying to create a culture and for them to understand not only what it takes to be a competitor but also what it takes to win,” Knoll said. “We have to work harder, it has to be as one unit and not rely on one player or a couple of players. It’s going to take a little bit but I like what I see.”
Despite having a height and size disadvantage, the Magic were able to win a high percentage of 50/50 balls out of the air. Seniors Ashley Pyne and Angela Gervasi were extremely stout in the center of the field, Pyne especially causing Knoll fits with her winning almost every header.
GIRLS SOCCER 6:30 1st half: Mount 1, Gwynedd Mercy 1
Meghan Corso ties it up on a free kick pic.twitter.com/fOCVgQzLGS
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) October 3, 2016
Neither team had scored through 30 minutes but not for a lack of trying. Then, with 8:02 left in the first half, Pyne struck with a moment of brilliance. After Gervasi cleared the ball up to her classmate, Pyne ripped a gorgeous volley that dipped in over the keeper and under the bar.
“I thought, ‘I just want a goal,’ and honestly, I did not think it was going in,” Pyne said. “I just shot it and it went in, I don’t know what else to say about it.”
Mount’s lead was short-lived when Gwynedd won a free kick about 30 yards out that senior Meghan Corso stepped up to take. Corso delivered a service that hit off the Mount keeper’s hands and hit the ground, crossing the line to level it with 6:30 left before halftime.
The Magic had two more shots saved by Gwynedd keeper Payton Morrissey (nine saves) before the half, then had nothing but encouragement for their keeper, Kieran Glowacki, who finished with eight saves.
“That’s something we’ve been very, very good with, keeping ourselves up when something happens like that,” Naydan said. “We came back, controlled the ball and kept playing the way we had been playing and didn’t let it get in Kieran’s head.”
The second half didn’t see any goals but it did see a lot of opportunity. Mount’s defending was excellent, with senior Aly Carpenter blocking a shot with 23 minutes left and Gervasi sweeping in to clear a dangerous ball about five minutes later.
Monarchs junior Bridget Casey got a lot of time at forward and created a lot of chances herself. Even so, she and her teammates couldn’t get through in the back.
“The three defenders we had out, myself, Maddie Feeney and Deirdre Regan all know when someone needs help,” Carpenter said. “We don’t have to communicate it all the time, we just see it and help each other out.”
The teams kept trading chances right down to the final whistle of regulation, the best being a shot from Mount’s Paige Comtois with 1:28 left. Pyne played Comtois through with a great ball but the forward’s shot went right to Morrissey.
GMA nearly won the game midway through the first overtime off a corner. Glowacki got low to make a save but gave up the rebound, only for a Monarchs player to slam a shot into the side netting.
“A lot of the games we’ve had, we’ve lost by one,” Knoll said. “It’s been a lucky bounce here and there, we’ve had a few injuries but that’s part of the game. We’re looking down the bench for somebody to step up when that happens, a who’s up next? We’re looking to develop that and it’s my job to get each player able to do that.”
It was a match that truly could have gone either way, but it was that little extra bit Mount’s intensity provided that ended up being the difference.
“Us seniors, his was our last Gwynedd game, we wanted to come out strong and we wanted to win,” Gervasi said. “We went out and took on the field. They’re always strong but we knew if we won the balls in the air and went 100 percent to every ball, it would be our game.”
Mount Saint Joseph 2, Gwynedd Mercy 1 (OT)
Mount Saint Joseph 1 0 1 – 2
Gwynedd Mercy 1 0 0 – 1
Goals: MSJ – Ashley Pyne 33’, Madison Hornig 86’; GMA – Meghan Corso 35’. Shots: MSJ -11, GMA – 9; Corner kicks: MSJ – 2, GMA – 4; Saves: MSJ – Kiernan Glowacki 8, GMA – Payton Morrissey 9.
Top Photo: Mount Saint Joseph’s Grace DiGiovanni settles the ball during the Magic’s game against Gwynedd Mercy Academy on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)