Burnetta, Bartosh keep AIS on track

RADNOR >> The shifts were gradual. The result was lightning quick, and the ramifications were seismic.

As Agnes Irwin’s game against Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy progressed Thursday, Owls certified speedster Lydia Bartosh kept creeping higher and higher up the pitch. The Owls’ principal goal threat, Kristin Burnetta, kept sliding further back, buttressing a youthful central midfield decimated by injuries.

When their paths intersected, good things transpired for the Owls.

Each of the tallies in a 5-2 win bore the fingerprints of that duo. Burnetta scored two first-half markers, playing her usual role of poacher extraordinaire. Bartosh scored twice, one set up by Burnetta, and assisted on two others, including prying open the defense for Maria Pansini’s goal.

Agnes Irwin's Kristin Burnetta left, battles for the ball with Springside Chestnut-Hill's Emily McNesby Tuesday. Burnetta scored twice and provided vital midfield support in Agnes Irwin's 5-2 win. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)
Agnes Irwin’s Kristin Burnetta left, battles for the ball with Springside Chestnut-Hill’s Emily McNesby Tuesday. Burnetta scored twice and provided vital midfield support in Agnes Irwin’s 5-2 win. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

As it has been all season, Tuesday was a matter of adjustment for Agnes Irwin (3-2-1, 1-1 Inter-Ac).

Bartosh started on the wing, then filled in for a spell at fullback. After halftime, the Owls staff recommitted to Bartosh’s propensity for stretching the field vertically.

The tactic paid off three minutes into the second stanza, with younger sister Grace Bartosh unhinging the defense with a pass that Lydia blasted home despite SCH goalie Destiniti Curry getting a glove to it.

“Me and her just have a special bond because we are sisters,” Lydia said. “We know how each other plays, we practice together all the time, so we just know each other.”

With that goal standing as the game-winner, it fell to Burnetta to bolster the midfield. Already without reigning Daily Times Player of the Year Hannah Keating due to a preseason knee injury, the Owls coped Tuesday sans veterans Emily Fryer and Annie McConnon, who suffered injuries this week.

Grace Bartosh and Bridget Fitzpatrick, both freshmen, deputized outstandingly, but the All-Delco forward Burnetta was all too happy to gravitate deeper and lend a helping hand.

“It’s been one way for my three years of high school, and then my senior year, all of a sudden it’s different,” Burnetta said. “It’s not a bad thing; it’s just different. I kind of like it. I like playing all over the field to help. I like feeling more involved. Sometimes you can feel stranded up top. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different, and it’s new and fun.”

The main focus for the Owls was to deprive University of Virginia-bound striker Meghan McCool touches. The U.S. Under-20 international scored in the 27th minute on a superb turn from 24 yards, and she demonstrated the detriment of devoting excess attention to her when in the 54th, Emily McNesby slalomed through a half-dozen defenders with one eye on McCool and finished off a stunning solo goal.

But given the constant threat posed by McCool, that return was plenty palatable for Agnes Irwin.

“Lots of communication, really doubling, stepping all the time, and just being aware that she’s there and that she’s a threat,” defender Kate White said. “… I think we definitely did well. It’s definitely a great challenge to defend her, and I think we handled it well and with poise.”

Agnes Irwin's Alicia O'Neil, right, was one of the defenders helping slow down Springside Chestnut Hill star Meghan McCool Tuesday in the Owls' 5-2 Inter-Ac win. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)
Agnes Irwin’s Alicia O’Neil, right, was one of the defenders helping slow down Springside Chestnut Hill star Meghan McCool Tuesday in the Owls’ 5-2 Inter-Ac win. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

White shadowed McCool while All-Delco defender Claire Micheletti stayed home to clear danger in the air, but much of Agnes Irwin’s defending was proactive, curtailing threats before they arose. Grace Bartosh and Fitzpatrick kept control of the center of the field, negating the Blue Devils’ preferred avenue of attack and funneling McCool’s touches to less threatening spots on the wings.

“I think they did a good job keeping us a little wider, because usually I play through the middle,” McCool said. “… Today, we struggled to keep the ball a lot, and I think if we had played some more give-and-gos, that would’ve freed up some more space.”

Agnes Irwin’s attack was impeded time and again by Curry, who had 15 saves, including three on breakaways. Burnetta found a way to get by her – despite being stoned on two of those one-v-one occasions – heading home Lydia Bartosh’s corner-kick delivery in the 14th minute and tucking away Pansini’s rebound in the 24th.

The season has begun in stop-start fashion for the Owls, thanks to injuries and cancellations. But Tuesday was just their second game on the Inter-Ac slate, leaving the schedule rife for new beginnings.

“It was just a choppy start, so I kind of feel like this is our real start to the season,” Burnetta said. “We’re linking up passes, making great things happen, trying new things. I think it’s a great start.”

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