WHITEMARSH >> All season the New Hope-Solebury field hockey team has been known for its defense. The team allowed just one goal in 17 games heading into its District 1 Class-A championship game against Gwynedd Mercy Academy.
Make that one goal in 18 games.
The No. 1 seeded Lions won what is believed to be the first field hockey district championship in school history with a 3-0 win over the No. 3 seeded and defending champion Monarchs Friday afternoon at Victory Field at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
FINAL: New Hope 3, Gwynedd Mercy 0. Lions are District 1-A champs! pic.twitter.com/CwB9m1Rtmp
— Ed Morlock (@emor09) October 27, 2017
New Hope’s defense lived up to its reputation. It turned away GMA corner after corner and sophomore goalkeeper Elsie Jones stopped all five shots she faced.
“We’ve had a really nice season — haven’t given up a lot of goals.” New Hope coach Gwen Smith said. “A lot of people were saying, ‘Your defense hasn’t been tested all that much.’ Well, there you have it. I know what my defense is. They’re a good group, they work hard, they listen, they’re disciplined. They showed it and they proved it today.”
“(New Hope’s) defense was fantastic,” GMA coach Alex McMahan said. “Their sticks never came off the ground. They’re in low-block tackles on the move the entire game all over the field, but their circle defense was fantastic. They took the ball from us every time we took our stick off of it. Their goalie was in every position the ball went to — she was everywhere.”
These two teams met in the District 1 championship and District 1/12 Regional championship last year — as they likely will again this year — with Gwynedd winning both games, 3-0.
“We’re definitely a different team than last year,” New Hope’s Sarah Wilson said. “We have so many freshman. Two freshman scored goals today — Erin (Firth) and Lilly (Smith) both scored a goal today. I was really proud of them. Last year we didn’t have that, this year we do. We have young players that can play.”
Firth got on the board midway through the first half. After a corner, the Monarchs couldn’t clear the ball out of the circle and MacKenzie Meyers found Firth for a 1-0 lead.
Smith added to it less than five minutes later. After receiving a pass from Annelise Dahlin, Smith’s shot was a slow roller that found its way into the back of the cage.
Wilson gave the Lions full control with 6:39 left in the half. She dribbled through a defender in front of the net before scoring. The goal was a milestone — tying Wilson with 2017 Dock Mennonite graduate Jill Bolton with 111 career goals.
“This year especially I have a new mindset of scoring, scoring, scoring,” Wilson, who estimated she has between 55 and 60 goals this year, said. “I felt like that was my role this year, so I’ve taken it on.”
Gwynedd did everything it could to fight back in the second half. The Monarchs possessed the ball in New Hope’s half of the field for a majority of the final 30 minutes. Their best chance at scoring came when New Hope’s Valentina Waschbusch had to make a defensive save to keep GMA off the board.
“At first we were a little spastic,” Wilson said of the second half. “Then we calmed down and realized that we’re the ones winning and we’re the ones playing offense and we weren’t the ones surviving — we were the ones thriving.”
The teams will likely meet again in the District 1/12 championship game next week.
New Hope-Solebury 3, Gwynedd Mercy Academy 0
Gwynedd Mercy Academy 0 0 — 0
New Hope-Solebury 3 0 — 3
Goals: NHS: Erin Firth, Lilly Smith, Sarah Wilson.
Assists: NHS: MacKenzie Meyers, Annelise Dahlin, Rachel Saxton.
Saves: GMA: Zoe Rogers 2. NHS: Elsie Jones 5.
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