LOWER GWYNEDD >> Madison Hornig seems tailor-made for the Gwynedd Mercy Academy-Mount St Joseph girls soccer rivalry.
After netting an overtime winner at GMA last season in the team’s second meeting, the Magic sophomore took things up a notch on Tuesday when the Mount and the Monarchs both opened their seasons. Horning scored two goals and picked up an unusual assist on the third as Mount rallied to top GMA 3-1.
It was very much a first game of the season for both sides, though the Mount did adjust and settled down well in the second half as it rallied from a 1-0 deficit at the break.
“She’s a special player,” Mount coach Bill Naydan said of Hornig. “She tied for our team lead in goals last year as a freshman. I’m looking to her to be one of the leaders on offense this year.”
GMA had the better run of play for long stretches of the first half, confounding Hornig and Mount with a high defensive back line and using its speed on the flanks to generate chances. Monarchs senior Bridget Casey also turned a monster game at center back, especially in the first half where she seemingly thwarted every Magic advance or set piece chance.
With the back line up so high, the Mount midfielders looked to spring Horning through, but either ended up playing a ball with too heavy a touch, or the forward getting caught offside.
On the other end, Gwynedd forced Mount St Joseph to do a lot of running back and finally caught the Magic out of sorts when left winger Grace Hirschman muscled past a defender down the touchline and whipped a low-hanging cross into the box. Waiting for it was striker Emily Meenan, who didn’t miss the wide-open chance and staked GMA to an 11th minute lead.
“I want our girls to come out with a purpose and I thought in the first half, we did extremely well,” GMA coach Derik Stover said. “I told the girls at halftime I wanted to keep putting the pressure on and hopefully we could put a couple in and get some other girls in to get the taste of what it’s like. I have a lot of girls who have moved up to varsity that I want to throw in the mix.”
Naydan and his players had a productive halftime talk, which focused on how to stop GMA going forward and how to best tackle the high back line.
“I thought we needed to be more aggressive in the middle, which is what we did in the second half,” Mount midfielder Allie Prue said. “Body-to-body on every tackle and challenge so that I could find Madison up top.”
It was Prue who finally connected with Horning on a good through ball that sent the sophomore in. Hornig was composed on the run, deftly touching around the onrushing Gwynedd keeper then slotting the ball into the gaping net to tie it up five minutes into the second half.
About three minutes later, it was Horning again charging down the field with the ball at her foot, only this time, she had to run a lot farther. A Monarchs corner kick ended up at the far post with a host of Mount players around, leading to a clear and then a counter.
Horning was able to shield the ball away from a chasing defender then opened up space and again finished around the keeper for a 2-1 lead.
“I pushed into (the defender) a little bit so I could get space, and I just kind of ran,” Hornig said. “It’s kind of habit, I push into people and then run away.”
Gwynedd, which seemed a little shaken after the tying goal, showed some fight after the second, but couldn’t quite connect again in the final third. Some of it was a product of new players in new spots and a team trying to build its identity on the field.
“I’m trying to find the next batch of young ladies who want to step up and who are up to the challenge,” Stover said. “It’s OK. I know we’ll bounce back, we have a tough match Thursday with Villa Maria, so it only gets more difficult, but that’s what I want. I told the players I want us to be challenged with the very best.”
For Mount, it was a game-long adjustment by the midfield that helped pay off. After graduating a couple of dynamic players last season, it’s a new group in the middle third, but Prue said they learned a lot about each other’s tendencies and styles on Tuesday.
Prue capped the game off with plenty of flair when she ripped a superb 22-yard curling volley into the top of the net late in the game for the final margin. The play was set up by Hornig, who managed to keep the ball through a tackle by Casey and got enough of it to play it out to Prue.
“I wanted to score going into this game and I thought ‘here it is,’” Prue said. “I just hit it and thankfully it went. It’s one of the best goals I’ve ever scored.”
Both teams continue AACA play this week, with GMA hosting Villa Maria and Mount taking on Nazareth Academy. They meet again at Mount St. Joseph on Sept. 26, where Hornig will continue to try and add to her growing run of success against the Monarchs.
“We just need to start games the way we finished today’s,” Hornig said. “If we come in with the right mindset and find each other, we can play like that the whole game.”
MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 3, GWYNEDD MERCY ACADEMY 1
MOUNT ST JOSEPH 0 3 – 3
GWYNEDD MERCY ACADEMY 1 0 – 1
Goals: GMA – Emily Meenan (Grace Hirschman); MSJ – Madison Hornig (Allie Prue), Hornig, Allie Prue (Madison Hornig). Saves: GMA – Jamie Hynes 5; MSJ – Gina Sassane 6