Villa Maria Academy’s future looks bright

Work Back.

That was the recurring phrase the Villa Maria Academy soccer team heard throughout the season from coach Gary Christopher to serve as a reminder for his team to get back into the on-side position due to the opposition’s constant push to try and draw the Hurricanes off-side.

“We like to attack and press the defense,’ said Christopher. “All season the opposition has done a good job of pressing up so I wanted to make sure the girls worked back to get in the on-side position.’

In Friday afternoon’s matchup in the first round of the PIAA District One Class AA playoffs against AACA foe Gwynedd Mercy, the familiar phrase took on multiple meanings.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first 10 minutes, Villa, the No. 6 seed, knew if they did not work back then their season would come to an end.

The Hurricanes did just that eventually leveling the match at 2-2 with 5:20 remaining in the second half before eventually seeing their effort come up just short as Gwynedd Mercy, the No. 3 seed, would prevail in penalty kicks (4-2) to earn the win thus ending Villa Maria’s season.

“I was very proud of this team,’ Christopher said. “I told them they had plenty to be proud of and to walk out with their heads held high. They have fought hard all season and today was the best example of this team never giving up and playing until the final whistle.’

“It was huge we advanced to the district tournament,’ said senior captain Katie Manta. “We had a good team with a lot of skill. Once we clicked we sort of got on a roll. I couldn’t be more proud of this team no matter the result.’

Facing an early 2-0 deficit, Christopher decided to make a goalie change subbing in Grace Olenzak for Olivia Kramer.

“I made the switch because I wanted Olivia to relax and see the game,’ said Christopher. “However Grace was playing well so we just stayed with her.’

Playing both goalies is nothing new for the Hurricanes this year with Olenzak and Kramer each seeing their share of time in net.

“Both Olivia and Grace have done everything we have asked,’ Christopher said. “They have supported each other and we would not have been in districts without them.’

Manta added, “It’s really great to see Grace and Olivia are friends on and off the field. I know it can be tough to have two people competing for one position but it has been important to our team success that both of them have put the team first.’

Putting pressure on GMA most of the afternoon, VMA’s persistence was finally rewarded with 19:52 remaining in the second half when Manta drilled a shot from the top of the box that slipped past GMA keeper Laura Lutes to slice the deficit in half.

As they have done all year, Villa kept fighting and thanks to the play of DeGenova tied the game when the speedy sophomore beat a charging Lutes to the ball before slipping the equalizer in.

Amidst the disappointment after falling short in penalty kicks, Christopher had the always challenging task of saying farewell to the talented senior class —Brigid Curley, Erin Alessandroni, Jenna Brignola, Jill Hoban, Manta, Keely Washel, Maddie Olenzak, Mary Kate O’Malley, Taylor Winslow and Courtney Stinger- along with thinking about a very bright future with many talented underclassmen who have learned many valuable lessons from the seniors.

“The seniors have been the core of this team,’ said DeGenova, who is just a sophomore. “They have lead us, helped us through everything and have been great role models.’

“The future is very bright for this team,’ Manta said. “I just wish I could be here to be part of this team. We have won together, lost together and have become like a family.’

Christopher added, “It might seem dim now but this team has a very bright future. We are going to miss the leadership all of our seniors have provided but we have a great group of underclassmen returning who learned from great kids.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply