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Villa clinches AACA title with dominant win over Merion Mercy

MALVERN—It was an afternoon of clinching for the Villa Maria Hurricane field hockey team. With a dominant 5-1 win Merion Mercy, the Hurricanes not only clinched the championship of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA), they also clamped down on the top seed in the 2017 District 1, Class AA tourney. The Golden Bears, the defending District champs, came into the contest ranked number two behind Villa.

When you are a part of the field hockey program at Villa Maria, winning a league title is pretty low on the list of goals. The Hurricanes, who reached state semis a year ago, and state finals three of the previous four years, have come to expect more from themselves. But that doesn’t mean that winning the AACA isn’t exciting, especially for the seniors who were celebrating senior day at Maurene Polley Field.

“Any time you win a trophy and get to say you’re the champion it’s exciting,” said Hurricane senior Emily Doyle. “We have a tough league, so it gets us hyped for what we hope is going to be a long run through Districts and hopefully states.”

Villa GK Danielle Acuna and the Hurricane corner defense

Merion Mercy came out attacking, and looked to make a statement early, working the ball into the circle and forcing a corner barely a minute into action. But the Hurricanes cleared it without the Bears getting off a shot, and went to work themselves.

After Villa got the ball past midfield, sophomore Adriana Yacovelli grabbed at took off towards the circle. Just after crossing the top of the circle, Yacovelli unleashed a perfect pass across the fron of the cage to a waiting Doyle, who bookended the scoring, notching both the first and final goals of the game.

“I saw a split down the middle, and then saw Emily coming up the other side,” said Yacovelli. “As soon as I saw the goalie commit to me, I made the pass to Emily, who put it in for us.”

Later in the half, Yacovelli found herself on the receiving end of a pass on a goal that was nearly a carbon copy of the first Hurricane score, this time with Hannah Miller getting the assist. Yacovelli made it 3-0 at halftime with her second goal of the game, with an assist going to Mary Harkins.

Adriana Yacovelli works towards the cage

“We’re working to get everyone a little bit smarter and a little bit better every time out,” said Villa coach Daan Polders. “Adriana has worked really hard in practice, and she’s getting in the right positions and it’s really helped her in this game.”

The Hurricanes tacked on another pair of goals in quick succession early in the second half. About five minutes in, Villa converted a penalty corner, with Brie Deitz finding the back of the cage, courtesy of an assist from Doyle. Then Doyle struck seconds late, with Lindsay Dickinson credited with the assist.

Villa has one more game before districts start, against always-tough Notre Dame Academy.

“We try to focus on the whole process and not strictly the results, and this is a big part of it,” said Polders. “We’re working on diversity, not trying to count on any one or two players. We’re looking forward to the post season.”

Villa’s Lindsay Dickinson lets loose with a shot on goal

The message of diversity is not falling on deaf ears. The Villa players know that how far they get depends on how well the play as a unit, not on how well any individual player plays.

“In all, we not playing as good individuals, we’re well as a unit,” said Doyle. “And none of us really cares who gets it done as long as we’re getting it done as a team. Our teamwork has been awesome, and it has filtered down through the younger players as well as those of us that have been here a while.”

Merion Mercy 0 1 –1
Villa Maria 3 2 –5

Goals:
Merion Mercy—Lavelle
Villa Maria—Yacovelli (2), Doyle (2), Deitz

Goalie Saves—Rane (MM) 13, Acuna (VM) 6

Defensive Save: Dietz (VM)

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