Team effort propels Gwynedd Mercy over Archbishop Wood

LOWER GWYNEDD >> When things are on for the Gwynedd Mercy Academy soccer team, it’s like the Monarchs have 10 field players capable of playing any position on the field.

GMA’s roster boasts a number of high-quality players but the team doesn’t overly rely on any single player. Add in the versatility of most of these players and it seems like the Monarchs can play position-less soccer. Tuesday afternoon, that fluid playing style was on display as GMA defeated Archbishop Wood 2-1 in a choppy game full of offside calls.

Maggie Cameron netted both goals for the Monarchs as they celebrated their seniors.

Bob Raines--MontgomeryMedia Gwynedd Mercy's Kimberly Sanford battles Archbishop Wood's Lauren Ruth Oct. 20, 2015.
Gwynedd Mercy’s Kimberly Sanford battles Archbishop Wood’s Lauren Ruth during their game on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

“Recently we have been playing a lot better as a team and connecting more,” Cameron said. “We’re looking for each other and we mesh really well so it’s just lucky that it happens I guess.”

While Cameron’s brace was the only offense the Monarchs needed, the senior was just as involved with her defensive work, making tackles and dropping back into the midfield throughout the game. The same was true of players across the formation, with GMA well aware that Wood’s offense had plenty of speed and ability.

The Monarchs’ offside trap turned into a highly effective weapon, as Wood couldn’t adjust to what the officials wer calling off. Granted, GMA wasn’t much more successful and the game never really developed a consistent flow.
“The flow of the game wasn’t as good as it could have been, but we have proper defenders back there,” Monarchs coach Steve Whitby said. “I don’t mess around with them much and don’t switch them out very often. They did a nice job. Kim Sanford, Bridget Casey, Mary Claire Casey and Carley Heinman and Erica DeCandido were the only two I switched.”

Sanford, a junior, was particularly effective while showing a good awareness of the ball and players around her. Starting as a central defender, she moved up into a holding midfield role later on as the Monarchs keyed in on stopping Wood from getting going on offense.

DeCandido, the teams’s third captain with Cameron and Casey, played on the back line, up top and across the midfield in the game, demonstrating the versatility the Monarchs possess.

Mary Claire Casey noted that like her team, Wood has more than enough talented players on its roster so the Monarchs knew they would have to work the field to stop the Vikings. Knowing the speed Wood possessed on the flanks and across its front line, Whitby said the strategy was to clog the center of the field and stop the distribution up and out.

That way, Wood couldn’t get the diagonal balls or incisive passes up top that would put its attackers into good position.

“We had some opportunities,” Wood coach Bill Cappo said. “We didn’t finish. We were looking more at their defense playing a trap and we worried more about that and pushing the ball through over the top then making a run with the ball. It kind of changed our game plan.”

“We had to cover for each other,” Casey said. “The ball kept going over our heads but we always had a person back to cover so that’s what helped us.”

Cameron got the hosts on the board with 8:19 left in the first half with a well-place hit from outside the box. After a short free kick from Wood, GMA won the ball back where it found its way to the senior for the hit.

Wood came out to start the second half with a spark and got right back in the game when Sofia Filippo power a shot through the keeper’s hands and in with 38:01 left in the game. GMA keeper Payton Morrissey had denied Filippo on a similar shot in the first half and the Monarch’s last line of defense also had a massive save on Wood freshman Lauren Ruth, getting a palm on a ball that seemed destined for the net.

Bob Raines--MontgomeryMedia Gwynedd Mercy's Shea Tomlinson and Archbishop Wood's Caitlyn Cliggett battle for a head ball Oct. 20, 2015.
Gwynedd Mercy’s Shea Tomlinson and Archbishop Wood’s Caitlyn Cliggett battle for a head ball during their game on Tuesday,  Oct. 20, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

The tie didn’t last long as Cameron staked her team back to a lead three and a half minutes later.
“Once people score on us, we come together as a team and say we’re not losing, we’re not tying, we’re only winning,” Casey said.

The sequence started when Heinman played a great ball up the right flank where DeCandido latched on to it and got to the end line. From there, the senior played it back into the box, where Cameron made a run onto it and struck a curler into the back of the net with 34:31 left.

“I guess it was just the right place at the right time,” Cameron said of her strikes. “I was just following up where my players were making runs.”

The victory was the third in a row over teams the Monarchs considered quality opponents in Wissahickon, Villa Joesph Marie and Wood. Whitby said his squad seems to be rounding into form at the right time with the District I playoffs looming.

Cameron and Casey said they’re not paying attention to the team’s current No. 1 ranking in the Class AA table because they know teams like Lower Moreland and Villa Joe are right behind them. But the two seniors did say the recent run of form is good for the younger players because it’s given them success in playoff-type games.

“That feels good going into district playoffs that we’ve had three really good teams we were able to beat,” Casey said. “We had really good games against all of them.”

“It makes our young players more confident,” Cameron added. “They’re ready to go in and understand what playoffs really mean.”

Wood begins its postseason Thursday when it hosts St. Hubert in a Philadelphia Catholic League quarterfinal.

“This is a non-league game, you’d like to win them all but it doesn’t happen,” Cappo said. “The playoffs are one and done so we have to look forward to that game and focus on that.”

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