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GA gets healthy, offense in gear against George School in PAISAA 1st round

Germantown Academy’s Sarah Dilello watches her shot on goal during the Patriots' PAISAA first round game against George School on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

WHITEMARSH >> For the first 23 minutes of play Friday, Mac Pluck’s efforts were sound and fury but yielded nothing.

That’s not entirely true, as the Germantown Academy senior striker’s efforts did yield quite a bit of frustration on her part. Pluck, a Duke recruit, just could not get the ball to go into the net, hitting the crossbar three times, the post another and putting another shot inside the six over the bar.

Pluck saw her teammates score a few times in her stead but she was driven and finally converted a chance with 17 minutes left in the first half as GA rolled visiting George School 7-0 in the first round of the PAISAA tournament.

“I guess the luck wasn’t on my side today shooting,” Pluck said with a laugh. “I guess next time I’ll shoot at the post and maybe it’ll go the other way and in. It was our last home game, everyone was super-excited to come out and that’s why we had the game we did.”

The story of GA’s season has been injuries. All year, the Patriots have been racked with injuries to key players all over the field, with Pluck even missing extended time due to a concussion earlier in the campaign. While GA isn’t back to 100 percent health, they’re close enough.

Germantown Academy’s Mackenzie Pluck runs down a pass near George School’s Susanne Kowalska during their PAISAA first round game on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Friday was just the kind of match they were looking for to show what it could do with the right pieces back on the pitch. GA, the No. 6 seed, took it right at No. 11 George School although it took 10 minutes to finally put a ball away.

“Since we’ve gotten everyone back, I feel like it’s a fresh, clean slate and we can start from scratch,” Pluck said. “We have a new motivation to win games.”

“When we were dealing with injuries, we were able to come together and try to keep that chemistry going,” senior midfielder Bailey Gilmore said. “Now that we’re back, we’re coming back 10 times stronger.”

Annelise Peterson scored the first two goals for GA, the first a good hit assisted by Maddie Burns and the second a great strike off the right flank that flew in the far post side of the net. Pluck scored about four minutes after Peterson’s second, receiving a ball from Peterson just outside the ball then clinically dribbling in and slotting the ball to the far post.

Gilmore made it 4-0 after she took a corner kick, then had the ball come back to her off Sarah Dilello’s hit. Keeping the ball on the endline, Gilmore powered toward the goal, tucking her shot between the near post and the keeper with 11:46 left in the half.

“We needed this game to find our rhythm again with everyone back,” Gilmore said. “It was there for us to work together as a team and find a rhythm. It feels good, we’re finally coming back together.”

Germantown Academy’s Bailey Gilmore battles George School’s Cynthia Menna for possession during their PAISAA first round game on Friday, November 3, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

All match, the Patriots were able to move the ball exceptionally well and didn’t look like a team that spent the fall juggling lineups and starters. Pluck looped a cross into the box that was knocked down by a defender and right to freshman Paige Lugossy, who punched it home for a 5-0 lead.

“We did that really well today, we were finding the space and we were moving the ball,” Gilmore said. “That’s something we’ve had to work on throughout the season, especially with a bunch of different girls coming in and out.”

Even with a big lead, GA continued to work the ball around and hustle into the second half. Lugossy created the team’s sixth goal when she ran hard after a long through ball from Ally Clark, getting to it on the endline and crossing back in, where JT Sariksy knocked it in on the far post.

Clark, a junior midfielder, capped the scoring when she dribbled through the defense and put a shot away with about 20 minutes left. From there, GA coach Chris Nelson was able to give subs plenty of minutes and even began moving players to different positions.

“We had to put some games behind us, it took a while and the losing mentality kind of lingered a little bit so we had to really come together as a team and talk it out,” Pluck said. “We found that this game and it brought us some motivation.”

“We have to play less as individuals and as soon as you see us starting to connect these passes in gaps, any one of us can shoot,” Gilmore said. “Shooting is the least of our worries, it’s moving on and off the ball. It’s finding the rhythym early. We came together as a team today and have that sense of what we can do.”

Germantown Academy’s Allison Clark works to receive a pass between George School defenders during their PAISAA first round game on Friday, November 3, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Where during the season, GA had athletes out of position by need, they finished Friday’s game with their starting goalkeeper at striker, defenders in the midfield and their Duke-bound striker playing sweeper behind Gilmore at stopper.

“I have a lot more respect for the defenders because I know how organized they have to be,” Pluck said. “I’m thankful I got to experience that and I can give them more respect and help back there.”

“It was hard to control ourselves because we’re so used to getting forward and going to the goal,” Gilmore added with a laugh. “We were trying to go forward and our coach was yelling at us to stay back.”

GA will face No. 3 seed Westtown, the defending PAISAA champion, on the road next Tuesday. The Patriots also have a handful of Inter-Act games left, including their annual season-ending contest with Penn Charter as part of GA-PC Day.

The Patriots won the PAISAA title two years ago, when Pluck and Gilmore were sophomores, and they see the same kind of talent on this year’s squad. It was a matter of getting it all on the field and back to playing as a team.

“We have the heart to win anything, we just have to put our minds to it and play the way we know how to play,” Gilmore said. “I think we have all the talent in the world.”

Goals: GA – Annelise Peterson (Maddie Burns), Peterson (Kathryn Hackley), Mac Pluck (Peterson), Bailey Gilmore (Sarah Dilello), Paige Lugossy (Pluck), JT Sarisky (Lugossy, Ally Clark), Ally Clark. Shots: GA – 21, GS – 2. Saves: GA – Lilly Altomare 1, Meghan Toscano 1.

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