The text message arrived on Ashley Pyne’s phone and the Mount Saint Joseph senior couldn’t believe it.
It read that her soccer team had lost to Nazareth Academy by a 5-1 score, a huge upset and the breaking point for Pyne and the other 12 seniors that are part of the squad. The next day, the players met and aired everything out. It was time to change the fortunes of the season.
Since then, the Magic have been a very different team.
“It’s our mentality,” Pyne said. “At the beginning of the year, everyone was more scared I guess. We were afraid to push up, we weren’t comfortable with each other yet. We lost a lot of seniors, we’re in a new formation and we just weren’t comfortable.”
Mount hit its highest point of the season Monday when it topped rival Gwynedd Mercy Academy 2-1 in overtime on the Monarchs’ field. After the lessons of the beginning of the season, the players are determined to make sure it isn’t the crest of the campaign.
It was a stark difference to the start of the year, where Mount lost to Gwynedd 4-1 in the season opener. Now at 6-4 on the season, the Magic are looking to keep building and the seniors are after their first district playoff win.
“We’ve had several team meetings to talk about heart,” senior defender and co-captain Aly Carpenter said. “We can’t force you to have heart — you just have to have heart. It changed the mentality that we can’t expect anything from a team, if was an easy team to beat last year it doesn’t mean they are this year. We all got comfortable with each other.”
Mount Saint Joseph is fifth in the first set of District 1 Class AAA power rankings released Sunday, and while there is still a lot of season left, it has the Magic in good standing.
Carpenter said the squad got more serious after the slow start to the season and while the players still keep it loose and have fun, it doesn’t carry onto the field. While the 13 seniors, 11 of them players, two managers, are close and have been, the underclassmen are a part of it this year as well.
“It’s been really awesome,” freshman Madison Hornig, who scored the game-winner against GMA, said. “The girls are all really nice and the competition is really good. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve come out strong when we needed to.”
Senior midfielder and co-captain Angela Gervasi said this is the most talented team Mount has had. For some reason, it didn’t translate early in the season, sparking the need for the players to gather and figure things out.
“I wasn’t there but got a text message saying we lost 5-1 and I was extremely upset,” Pyne, the third co-captain, said. “We had a meeting the next day, and it’s hard, no one wants to be there. It was our turning point because everyone decided, if you don’t have the heart, get off the team. We knew we had the people who want to be here.”
While it was an intense gathering, it wasn’t a negative one.
“It was relieving afterward,” Carpenter said. “It was intense while you were sitting there, but everyone had good points. It wasn’t going at one person, everyone had points that needed to be addressed in general and we all agreed on.”
“The practice the next day was 10 times better than a normal practice up to that point,” Gervasi added. “Everyone had constructive criticism, every person was able to put their thoughts in and got to speak their mind and get what they wanted to out so we could start fresh.”
The task now is to at the very least keep their spot in the district rankings, if not improve on it. The three co-captains said they didn’t expect the emotions of beating Gwynedd to cause a drop-off. Instead, it would be something to boost their resolve.
Magic coach Bill Naydan, in his first season as the varsity head coach, has a great rapport with his players and felt like their intensity and desire to work hard would eventually bring them together.
“The work ethic in these kids is phenomenal,” Naydan said. “They work like crazy to be the best players they can be and their effort (Monday) really showed it. To beat Gwynedd like that on their home field gives us the push we need for the rest of the season.”
The Magic aren’t a large or physically imposing team, but they play hard, with intensity and physical to make up for it. That, coupled with the amount of talent woven up and down the roster, made for the formula to a successful season.
Sometimes, there just has to be something to spark the reaction.
“It’s our focus,” Gervasi said. “At the beginning of the season, we did not focus as a team and these past few games, we’ve come together and decided we want to win. This isn’t just fun and games, we’re trying to win.”
“We all have the same idea of heart and winning,” Carpenter said. “We don’t want to come out here and waste two hours just playing around and goofing off, we want to win. We still want to have fun, but we’re determined to win.”
The captains said they’d like to win at least one district game but added that no matter when their season ends, they can call it successful if they know and believe they put everything they had into every game going forward.
“It’s not like our energy just comes from the people on the field,” Pyne said. “It comes from the depth on our bench. Every single person wants to be here, wants to cheer us on and be part of the Mount community and play a great game.”
The team’s motto is “All out, all game, all season.” After a crucial team meeting, it’s been more than just a huddle-breaker.
“Everyone follows that,” Pyne said. “Mount soccer, we’re going to pull through on that and try our hardest every game. We say it every time before we go out on the field and it makes us excited to be out there.”
Top Photo: Mount Saint Joseph’s Deidre Regan dribbles near Gwynedd Mercy Academy defenders Kendall Seifert and Gianna Speranza during their game on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)