WORCESTER >> First it was the goaltending of Nicole Willi.
Then, it was the second-half scoring of Madelyn Pyle and Paitlyn Wirth.
And when it was over, Gwynedd Mercy Academy was watching its season come to a close.
Willi made 12 mostly sensational first-half saves, then Pyle and Wirth combined for three second-half tallies as the underdog Wildcats shocked the Monarchs, 3-1, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A field hockey championships at Methacton High School.
The District 1-champion Monarchs came out like a house ablaze, firing 20-odd first-half shots at Wildcats goaltender Willi.
But the Greenwood backstop had all the answers, turning each one aside.
“We came out on fire,” said Monarchs head coach Alex McMahan. “We controlled the entire half.”
But after their barrage failed to produce goals, McMahan said the Monarchs began to press.
“We just couldn’t get any shots in, and then Greenwood came out on fire in the second half.”
The Wildcats did, indeed, come out firing, and Pyle got the underdogs on the board, with a goal at the 22:01 mark of the second half.
Gwynedd’s Caroline Sweeney tied it moments later, but instead of the goal firing up the Monarchs, it seemed to light a fire under the Wildcats.
Pyle scored at the 14:02 mark, and Greenwood did not look back.
“The intensity was still there,” McMahan said, “but we got frantic in going to goal instead of remembering that it was team play that got us this far.
Wirth got the game-clincher at the 5:40 mark, and the Wildcats were in the driver’s seat.
The Monarchs scrambled, frantically seeking the proximity goal down the stretch.
But in the end, it was the Wildcats who had the win, and the Monarchs could only look back on a district-championship winning season.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” McMahan said. “We’ve come a long ways from the beginning of the season when we were having trouble getting the ball out of our own end.
“We snapped a 20-plus year drought and brought a district field hockey title to the school, and that’s quite an achievement for this class of seniors.”