SPRINGFIELD >> It may have been an early-season game, but the intensity was high from start to finish when Gwynedd Mercy Academy and Mount St. Joseph Academy met Wednesday afternoon.
The Athletic Association of the Catholic Academies rivals battled back-and-forth for 60 minutes and when the final whistle sounded it was the Monarchs celebrating a 4-2 win at Mount St. Joseph Academy High School.
“They’re our big rival,” GMA junior Alaina McVeigh said. “Every year this is the game that we look to play our best in and we came out really hard today.
The Monarchs (4-0) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first 6:48 of the game. The first goal came on a penalty corner, when Sydney Mandato inserted to McVeigh, who ripped a shot that was deflected into the back of the cage by Melanie McGill. The second came less than two minutes later when Alex Wentz found a way to score through a crowded mess around the goal.
“It was huge,” McVeigh said of the fast start. “Something we try to do is come out strong and I think that we did a good job and we kept that up throughout the game.”
“When we played Villa Maria the other day,” Mount coach Sue Wentzel said, “we started off in a hole – a similar thing happened to us and we bounced back. We talked about not letting it happen because you’re digging and digging and digging. If we can just control that a little bit better and jump on the ball – especially you win the coin toss, you win possession of the ball. (The slow starts are) definitely a factor we have to rise above.”
McVeigh set Audrey Beck up for a goal early in the second quarter to extend GMA’s lead to 3-0.
The Magic (1-2) didn’t go away. Megan Maransky scored on a penalty stroke late in the second quarter and Campbell Donovan cut the deficit to one, 3-2, early in the third when she converted a penalty corner.
The one-goal game continued until late in the third quarter, when GMA earned a penalty stroke and McVeigh converted for a 4-2 lead.
Both sides generated scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter, but neither was able to put one away.
“We’ve been on the other side of it,” Wentzel said. “We were the team today that let things get to us. A lot of times in sports if you’re the team chasing all over – the last five minutes we were running around like crazy. We don’t play like that. Calm down. Let’s make it quality vs. quantity. The clock is running, but it’s hurting us by panicking. It was a scramble not just at the end, it was the whole game.”
The Mount, which ended GMA’s season last year in the district playoffs, had 15 penalty corners in the game, with Donovan’s goal being the only conversion. McVeigh’s speed out of the cage and pressure on the ball was a big reason why.
“I was just trying to run out as fast as I could,” McVeigh said. “I think that everyone on our defensive corners did a good job to step up to the ball and make sure that they weren’t getting shots off.”
The AACA rivals won’t have to wait long to see each other again. The rematch is set for Saturday Oct. 24 at GMA at 3 p.m.
“Maybe my team actually needs this kind of thing to rise up,” Wentzel said of the Senior Day defeat.