SPRINGFIELD >> The Gwynedd Mercy Academy girls soccer team has had a rough start to its season.
The Lady Monarchs led at halftime in five of their first seven games, but every time came out on the losing end.
That changed Tuesday afternoon.
GMA scored two goals in the final three minutes of the first half and carried that momentum to a 4-0 Catholic Academies win over rival Mount Saint Joseph Academy to pick up its first win of the season.
“It feels really amazing,” GMA defender Bridget Casey said. “We’ve been working really hard this whole season and most of our games haven’t shown our ability. Today, we really came out and showed it.
“It feels even better because Mount has always been our biggest rival. To come out and win feels great.”
The Monarchs got on the board in the 37th minute. Sophomore Grace Hirchmann’s shot from the left side missed the far post and her classmate Maddie Mele was there to put the ball in the back of the net.
Minutes later with just 11 seconds left in the first half, Hirchmann doubled the lead to 2-0. Freshman Kaylie Griffin crossed the ball in the air and Hirchmann volleyed it out of the air.
Junior captain Cailin Panacek iced the game with a free kick in the 56th minute. From roughly 30 yards way, Panacek hit a high-arcing ball towards the net. MSJ’s keeper jumped and got a fingertip on it, but couldn’t knock it over the net.
The fourth and final goal came six minutes later. Sophomore Mollie Hanson tucked the ball just under the crossbar.
“(Offense) is what’s been missing the previous seven games,” GMA coach Derik Stover said. “We score one or two and we think we’re going to hold on to the lead. We tried something different and put Mollie Hanson up top — tremendous all around player. We wanted to shake it up a little bit, some different looks to see what works. It paid off, obviously. Everyone contributed.”
“The way Gwynedd’s season was going I think they came out knowing this was their biggest emotional game, their most important game and they came out like the Gwynedd that we’ve known from over the years,” MSJ coach Bill Naydan said. “We had some unfortunate breaks against us. They played a great, great game. I have to hand it to them for that.”
While all the scoring was happening, Gwynedd was playing a dominant defensive game.
Freshman goalkeeper Grace Galbreath made her first varsity start after getting a few minutes in a previous game. She made eight saves, including a diving stop on a penalty kick against Magic sophomore forward Madison Hornig.
“We put it on (Galbreath’s) shoulders and she accepted the challenge,” Stover said. “As you can see, even with the penalty kick, she rose to the challenge and I’m extremely proud of her. The best is yet to come for Grace.”
Hornig scored two goals earlier this year when the Mount beat GMA, 3-1. She was dealing with an injury Tuesday, but the Monarchs made sure to keep an eye on her at all times.
“Going in, (Hornig) was the one main focus,” Stover said. “She’s the strength — they feed her a lot. I understand she was a little bit nicked up. We wanted to make sure we didn’t give any openings whatsoever. We put our best defender (Casey) on her and she was able to control her. She’s an extremely talented young lady, but my girl also did a fantastic job.”
“We had our freshman goalie in and she did amazing,” Casey said. “We just wanted to protect her. Our whole goal was to keep them out of the net.”
The Mount totaled eight shots on net in the game, six coming in the second half.
“We just couldn’t get any offense generated today,” Naydan said. “A lot of our players are dealing with injuries — we have a couple knees, a couple feet. Madison Hornig up top has a bad ankle that she’s been playing on, she’s not 100 percent either. Fighting through those things sometimes is hard. When you’re playing a team like Gwynedd it’s always going to be a game like this that could go either way.”
Gwynedd Mercy Academy 4, Mount Saint Joseph 0
Gwynedd Mercy Academy 2 2 — 4
Mount Saint Joseph 0 0 — 0
Goals: GMA: Maddie Mele, Grace Hirchmann, Cailin Panacek, Mollie Hanson.
Assists: GMA: Grace Hirchmann, Kaylie Griffin.
Saves: GMA: Grace Galbreath 8. MSJ: Gina Sassane 10, Annie Princivalle 0.