NEWTOWN TWP. >> It was a different year, but a similar result Tuesday night for Gwynedd Mercy Academy’s field hockey team.
For the second consecutive season, the Monarchs’ playoff run came to a halt against District Three third-place team Greenwood in the opening round of the PIAA Class A tournament.
Gwynedd suffered a 2-1 loss to Greenwood, as the Wildcats’ Leah Bryner scored the game-winning goal with 12:32 to play in the state playoff opener at Council Rock North’s Walt Snyder Stadium. The entire contest was played in a steady rain, with temperatures dipping into the low 40s. Gwynedd coach Alex McMahan said that as poor as the playing conditions were, they did not have a dramatic impact on the game.
“I don’t even think the girls noticed,” McMahan said. “They came out and they were ready to go right from the start of the game. I think the weather just made them play with that much more intensity.”
The Monarchs (15-9) were hoping to build on the momentum from their most recent playoff performance – a 2-1 upset of previously unbeaten New Hope-Solebury in the District 1-12 Class A regional championship game. It initially seemed as though they would, as they captured the early lead. Greenwood junior standout Paityn Wirth, a member of the U.S. women’s under-17 national team who has already verbally committed to Penn State, received a green card about eight minutes into the game.
With Wirth on the sideline, the Monarchs took advantage. On a penalty corner, Gwynedd’s Alden Boccella scored at the 21:20 mark with an assist from Gabby Saxon. The Monarchs’ lead didn’t last too long, however. Back on the field, Wirth made a long solo run down the right side, dribbled into the circle and found teammate Cori Davis at the left post. Davis knocked the ball into the cage to knot the score at 1-1, just 1:59 after Boccella’s goal.
“Our first goal kept the momentum up and we wanted to keep going up from there,” Boccella said. “When they (scored the tying goal), it plummeted our spirit and everything, but we tried to come back from it.”
The Monarchs played Greenwood (20-5) on even terms throughout the rest of the first half. The second half, however, belonged to the Wildcats. They had an 8-0 edge in shots and a 7-0 advantage in penalty corners after the intermission. Still, it wasn’t until their final penalty corner of the night that they broke through to score the go-ahead goal. Bryner delivered it, with an assist from Grace Lesh, sending Greenwood into Saturday’s state quarterfinals against District 11 champion Moravian Academy, a 3-0 winner over Mifflinburg.
“We had a great season,” Boccella said. “We won regionals. This year, we tried to surpass where we went last year, but it just didn’t go as planned.”
McMahan said she had nothing but positive feelings about Gwynedd’s season.
“I was really proud with how they performed,” she said. “They got better every game, they added new elements to their game, and I saw a lot of potential with our underclassmen, and it just shows we’ve got a bright future next year.”
Greenwood 2, Gwynedd Mercy Academy 1
GMA 1-0 — 1
Greenwood 1-1 — 2
First Half: GMA—Alden Boccella (Gabby Saxon), 21:20. Gr-Cori Davis (Paityn Wirth), 19:21
Second Half: Gr—Leah Bryner (Grace Lesh), 12:32.
Shots: Greenwood 10, Gwynedd 2.
Corners: Greenwood 10, Gwynedd 3.
Saves: Kelsey Sheaffer (Gr) 1; Zoë Rogers (GMA) 6.