RED HILL >> Gwynedd Mercy Academy scored three times in the first quarter, including Alaina McVeigh’s 100th career goal, on the way to a 5-2 win over Upper Perkiomen Thursday afternoon in a District 1-2A field hockey semifinal at Indian Stadium.
McVeigh later added goal No. 101 and also recorded an assist, Sydney Mandato also scored twice with an assist, and Kylie Haberstroth made 12 saves for the third-seeded Monarchs (9-1). They will visit top seed Villa Maria, a 3-0 winner over Merion Mercy, on Tuesday at a time to be determined for the title and the district’s only spot in the PIAA Tournament.
Abby Rodenberger and Bella Carpenter scored in the fourth quarter for the Pioneer Athletic Conference champion and No. 2 seed Indians (10-2-2), who had a 15-4 advantage in penalty corner opportunities.
“We didn’t know what to expect,”said McVeigh, who scored three in a 10-2 win over Phoenixville on Tuesday. “We had to give it our all, and we played really great tonight.”
McVeigh was a part of the first goal four minutes into the contest when her shot was deflected in by Alex Wenz. Mandato made it 2-0 three minutes later. Then McVeigh knocked in her milestone goal off a pass from Mandato on a breakaway with 1:10 remaining in the opening period.
“I’m really excited about it,” said McVeigh. “I think our team has been playing really great and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my teammates.”
Despite that score, Upper Perk — a 5-0 winner over Upper Dublin on Tuesday — had its chances in the first quarter as Carpenter drilled a shot off the left post off an insertion pass from Kylene Gooch midway through the period and the Indians put four shots on goal in quick succession two minutes later.
“Two inches over and it would have been a goal and made a difference,” UP coach Jamie Warren said concerning Carpenter’s near miss with the Indians trailing 2-0 at the time. “We started to come alive. We didn’t have a good warm-up. We were down 3-0 to Gwynedd Mercy a couple years ago and came back and lost in overtime.”
McVeigh scored on a penalty stroke with five minutes to go in the second quarter and Mandato notched her second with 25 seconds left for a 5-0 halftime lead.
The Indians applied pressure with six penalty corners during a scoreless third period and kept it up in the final 15-minute period with five more corners. Rodenberger scored with 11:30 to go, but Haberstroth turned away six shots before Carpenter got on the board with seven seconds remaining.
“Our second half went the way we planned it,” said Warren. “I just wish we would have started the first half of the game with more energy and more confidence. We just needed to get the shots on goal earlier. We needed to follow those rebounds. They (the Indians) just got down on themselves. They (the Monarchs) have talent, obviously. They’re very strong on the offensive end and the defensive end.”
Next, Gwynedd will try for its first district title since 2016.
“I think we’re really close (as a team) this year,”said McVeigh. “And we’ve been passing really well, really playing big and stretching and been good on long balls.”
The Indians, who won their second straight PAC title, were denied a chance to play for their first district title since 2013 after finishing as the runner-up last season. They will lose six seniors, but will try to carry their strong second half on Thursday into next season.
“We’ve struggled with straight shots off corners. Their flyer was fast,” said Warren, who spoke with the juniors about next season afterwards. “We want to build off the second half of that game. We want to forget about the first half.
“Winning two PAC championships is a big accomplishment. We were just happy that we got to play. We enjoyed the time we had with them and we made the most of it.”