Gwynedd Mercy can’t stop Villa Joseph Marie’s District 1-AA four-peat

NEWTOWN — The Gwynedd Mercy Academy girls soccer team’s quest for a district championship ended on Wednesday evening after a 5-0 loss to No. 1 seed Villa Joseph Marie High School.

Villa sophomore Murphy Agnew netted two goals in the first half, helping the Jems jump out to a three-goal lead before the 28th minute and leading them to their fourth straight District 1-AA title.

“They came out composed and we came out in a panic,’ said Gwynedd Mercy head coach Steve Whitby. “Our first touches were getting away from us and theirs were dead-on.’

Gwynedd Mercy’s Achilles’ heel was the speed and control of Villa’s forwards and midfielders. Three times in the first half a Villa player won a footrace for the ball, setting up a clean breakaway. The Jems exploited their speed all game, intentionally booting balls way downfield and trusting the chasing forward to win the race.

More often than not they did, and it led to 13 shots for the Jems, most of which were from quality scoring areas.

Gwynedd Mercy goalkeeper Laura Lutes was able to make a diving save on the first breakaway from Shannon Coleman, but the following two yielded goals — one to captain Allie Trzaska to open scoring in the 16th minute, and the other to Agnew for her first of the game just six minutes later.

Villa’s two second-half goals, which were scored by Coleman and Bridget Galen, respectively, came about in a similar fashion.

“That was their business plan all along against us,’ Whitby said. “To try to solve the off-sides trap, which they did a couple times. We didn’t turn our hips and get prepared to run for them.’

Offensively, the Monarchs’ chances were limited. They recorded no shots in the first half and their time in the Jems’ end was brief. It was not for lack of effort, Villa just had a knack for clogging lanes and stopping the ball in the neutral zone. The defensive pressure was unrelenting, and it caused the Monarchs to have very little time with the ball.

“There was no possession,’ Whitby said. “And that was a result, mostly, of our panic with our first touch and not having the idea where we are going with the ball when it does arrive.’

“We couldn’t really connect passes as well as we usually do,’ said senior captain Emily Sullivan.

Lutes played exceptional in net despite the score, and kept the game manageable for a majority of the match. If it were not for a few diving stops from Lutes and gutsy challenges of the ball carrier, Villa could have put the game away much earlier.

“I thought Laura Lutes played an outstanding game,’ Whitby said. “She was not well-protected today. I’m not putting this on our backs, it’s not our backs it’s the whole team. We are responsible to defend and we didn’t have our best game tonight.’

The loss for the Monarchs means the end of their season, but it was a season both the players and coaches are especially proud of.

Just two days prior the Monarchs broke a scoreless tie late in regulation and went on to defeat a tough Lower Moreland club 2-1 in overtime in the district semifinals. That win put them at an impressive 13-3-1 record heading into Wednesday’s championship match.

“I think we had a really great season,’ Sullivan said. “We came this far and we have done great stuff. It’s been really fun and memorable.’

“Outstanding season,’ Whitby added. “Probably one of the best at Gwynedd, and there is more to come. At some point we will regroup for next year and we will be back.’

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