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Mele, Gwynedd Mercy rally for OT win over Mount St. Joseph in District 1-3A 1st round

Mount Saint Joseph's MK McDonough and Gwynedd Mercy's Molly Hanson battle for control of the ball during their District 1-3A first round game on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

SPRINGFIELD >> Playing one-touch, fast-paced soccer, Gwynedd Mercy attacked its three-goal deficit and whittled it down to size.

Fittingly, it would be Maddie Mele who would send the Monarchs into overtime and also get them out of it.

“She’s been our go-to girl all throughout the season,” GMA coach Derik Stover said of the sophomore. “When we needed a spark, she’s always been there for us.

“She’s a fighter. She never gives up, despite her size. She’s a true warrior.”

The Monarchs’ diminutive spark plug scored twice — first in the final three minutes of regulation and then in OT — to help 11th-seeded GMA overcome a 4-1 hole and win 5-4 on the road against sixth-seeded Mount St. Joe’s Tuesday afternoon.

“It was nerve-racking, but we scored, won and moved on,” Mele said.

Gwynedd Mercy’s Sarah White drives the ball downfield with Mount Saint Joseph’s Grace Di Giovanni in pursuit during their District 1-3A first round game on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

The win sends the Monarchs to the District 1-3A Quarterfinals, Thursday at No. 3 Pope John Paul II.

Mele scored with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left to tie things up at four apiece. And then 2:42 into overtime, Cailin Panacek delivered a corner kick for the Monarchs and Mele got to it, knocking it past Magic keeper Gina Sassane for the game winner.

“It was just really scary because you don’t know if you’re gonna miss or make it,” Mele said with a smile. “You have one shot, and if you make it, it’s gonna make the difference.”

That made all the difference for the Monarchs, who kept battling back all afternoon.

“I’m not gonna be able to sleep tonight,” Stover said of the rollercoaster affair, “but that’s how we play the games — they’re exciting. We knew that The Mount was gonna bring everything at us.”

After Mollie Hanson scored early for the Monarchs, the Magic reeled off four consecutive goals within a span of 20 minutes.

Grace DiGiovanni capitalized on a breakaway, drawing things even at one, and then Maddie Feeney set up Caitlyn Vesey to push Mount ahead for the first time.

Mount Saint Joseph’s Kate Taulane steals the ball from Gwynedd Mercy’s Maria Olbrich during their District 1-3A first round game on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

DiGiovanni then notched herself a hat trick, scoring off assists from Allie Prue and Rachel Shields to make it 4-1 Magic with 10 minutes left in the first half.

“Grace played a great game. She’s one of our senior captains and you could see how strong of a player she is out there,” Magic coach William M. Naydan said. “I think we had the momentum at the beginning of the game and then it kind of swung. And we couldn’t quite grasp it back.”

GMA launched a corner kick that proved to be trouble for the Magic, the ball getting knocked in as an own goal, to make it 4-2 at the half.

Samantha Berish found the back of the net — ushering in the cheers of “she’s a freshman” — to slice the margin down to 4-3 with 16 minutes left. Berish then assisted on Mele’s game-tying score.

“Sam kind of made that goal happen, so thanks to her,” Mele said. “It’s so exciting to move on.”

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