WHITEMARSH >> The Gwynedd Mercy Academy field hockey team is peaking at the right time of year.
The Monarchs continued their late-season surge Friday afternoon with a 3-0 win over New Hope-Solebury in the District 1-A championship game at Plymouth-Whitemarsh. It was only the first step for GMA, which along with New Hope-Solebury and Dock Mennonite Academy, advances into the District 1/12 regional bracket to determine PIAA playoff qualifiers.
Winning a district title was a nice reward for the Monarchs, and one they’ll note was due to their season-long progression.
“We gained momentum throughout the season,” GMA coach Alex McMahan said. “It was a process. We focused on one change at a time from game to game. Whatever that main weakness was, we addressed it the next day in practice and focused on it for the next game.”
Friday’s game took a while to get going although Gwynedd Mercy had more control of the ball despite not having any shots or corners to show for it. The Monarchs finally broke through with 11:52 left in the first half after Caroline Sweeney put home a rebound off of a previous shot.
With the lead, the Monarchs really took control in the second half and for the game out-shot the Lions 16-2 and held a 16-0 edge in penalty corners. New Hope defended well and goalkeeper Kennedy Luke was excellent all game for her team, but the amount of pressure was just too much to keep out of the cage.
“This group focused on what was at task and got it done,” McMahan said. “We built it up day by day throughout the season and peaked at the right time.”
GMA’s corners finally netted a goal early in the second half. Kaitlyn McCauley’s entry pass found Alden Boccella at the high left side of the circle and Bocella one-timed a lifted shot into the cage with 28:52 left in the game.
Boccella scored again with 2:07 left on the clock on an assist by Charlotte Gilmore.
The Monarchs’ performance on Friday, which looked strong, organized and played with purpose was much different than how they looked early in the season. They entered the district bracket as the No. 4 seed, but ended playing like the best team in the whole thing.
“We only do it because we rely on each other,” McMahan said. “It’s going to give us a lot of success when we play teams that have standouts, maybe one or two superstars on their team. These kids need each other, every single position on that field knows how to play together and use each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Of the four teams in the regional, which includes Lansdale Catholic, three go to states so the Monarchs will play at least two more games.
With the way they’re playing however, it seems like this team isn’t going to settle for just two. The regular season set the stage for this postseason surge, even if it didn’t always feel like it. By focusing on the immediate rather than the long-term, the Monarchs slowly but surely became a team capable of raising the first of what they hope is several trophies.
“The more they spent time together, the more they bonded,” McMahan said. “They got used to each other on the field and off the field and it just clicked toward the end.
“We really set one goal at a time. The first goal was improvement from game to game and to accomplish our three objectives for the season with our player. We want quick and easy passing, fitness and attacking with speed. We focus on playing goals rather than tangential goals and victories and the victories just came with progress.”
Top Photo: Gwynedd Mercy players crowd together for celebration photos after beating New Hope-Solebury 3-0 in the District 1-A championship on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)