Gwynedd Mercy rolls past New Hope-Solebury to reach District 1-AA final

TOWAMENCIN — Playing on turf is a special treat for the Gwynedd Mercy field hockey team, but not so much for whoever the Monarchs happen to play that afternoon.

Containing GMA’s speed is an extremely tough chore, and the second-seeded Monarchs quickly turned the North Penn turf into a fast track Tuesday afternoon. GMA rolled 6-0 over a solid New Hope-Solebury squad, with the victory advancing Gwynedd to Saturday’s district final against top-seeded Villa Maria.

“A lot of our girls do play on turf year round so when they get to this point, they’re energized,’ said Monarchs coach Sue Persichetti, who has her team back in states after a semifinal appearance a year ago. “The girls are energized when they get to play on turf because they can really show their stick skills and their field sense a whole lot more.’

GMA, which plays its home games on grass, quickly took a 1-0 lead over No. 3 New Hope when senior midfielder Corinne Persichetti knocked a shot past Lions keeper Chloe Verwiel less than 14 minutes into the contest.

Monarch speedster Nicole Catalino, another of GMA’s seasoned, year-round players, scored twice before the half, both goals coming off passes from Persichetti. GMA was firmly in control, up 3-0 at the break.

“We’ve been working on our passes, getting them off quickly, and it really showed all of the hard work that we’ve given to that area of our play,’ said Catalino, a senior forward. “I’ve been focusing on getting the ball in the circle and hoping for tips, but luckily our players were obstructing the view of the goalie so a few of them went right in.’

Persichetti added her second goal early in the second half and Catalino completed her hat trick with about 13 minutes to play. Peppering the New Hope net with 39 shots, the Monarchs completed the scoring on a goal by junior Megan DeVernois.

“The team’s playing really well. We’ve improved a lot,’ Catalino said. “We’ve been used to playing long ball all season and we knew coming into this season we would have to work on our small ball, and everyone’s been playing 100 percent, playing their best, better than I ever could have expected…I’m really excited for Saturday. It’s gonna be a great game.’

Along with its speed, balance has been key for Gwynedd. The Monarchs dominated possession with a cohesive, fluid attack.

“We’re not gonna get there with two people leading the offense,’ coach Persichetti said. “Last year, we didn’t get (to the state semis) with just two people leading the offense. We had strong seniors who were physical, determined and athletic girls. So I think the younger girls have realized how important their role is.’

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