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Dirks, Episcopal Academy ace rivalry week tests

NEWTOWN TWP. >> With the peculiar Inter-Ac schedule, this week shaped up as potentially a special one for Episcopal Academy.

A league title in hand, the Churchwomen could lay the groundwork toward a Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association title, and in the process, get two cracks at their archrival, Agnes Irwin.

Friday afternoon, EA capped the week in style.

An own goal and an Olivia Dirks tally in the first half sent EA on its way to a 2-0 rivalry-day win over Agnes Irwin.

On the heels of Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Owls in the PIASAA quarters and a 1-0 win over Penn Charter Thursday in the semis, EA has passed its sternest test of the season with flying colors.

“It’s been awesome,” Dirks said. “We’ve all been having fun with it.”

EA (18-3) started fast Friday with an own goal in the sixth minute when Agnes Irwin defender Grace Bartosh side-footed the second ball off a corner kick into her net.

Dirks doubled the lead in the 34th, mere seconds after she celebrated a goal called off (correctly) for an offside. The ensuing free kick was quickly intercepted in midfield and funneled to freshman forward Hailee Moran, who squared a pass to Dirks in the left channel to pick out the far post, leaving Agnes Irwin goalkeeper Amelia Leyden no chance.

“It was really important,” Dirks said of the quick start. “Our whole team was really focused and we always work really hard and we work well together, which helped us.”

Leyden recovered to make nine saves, left with no chance on the two goals with her defense hanging her out to dry.

EA roundly controlled matters in midfield. The trio of Raina Kuzemka, Alexandra McHugh and Anna Salvucci dominated possession and pinned Agnes Irwin in its defensive half for most of the game. Even after Salvucci left in the second half with a deep cut on her leg, Dirks pulled in centrally and did what EA has done most of the year, compensating for injury absences.

“She’s a great player, but we have a lot of other great players,” Dirks said. “Our bench is deep and we have a lot of players that are ready to step on the field and work hard.”

Agnes Irwin troubled Episcopal goalie Hannah Moriarty with just one shot on target, late in the first half on a speculative Heni Danson effort from midfield. Natalie Pansini chipped a shot high in the 31st minute off a feed from Liza Richardson, and she again was wide of the target with a chance in the 57th. By and large, though, the threat of Pansini and her sister, Maria, were ably repelled by the central defense duo of Annie Doig and Laila Payton, which helped keep the Churchwomen’s momentum going for Wednesday’s PAISAA final against Springside Chestnut Hill at 5:30 at Immaculata.

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