Malvern >> Archbishop Carroll, the top seed in District 12 2A, knew they were facing a tough assignment in the PIAA 2A field hockey state quarterfinal Saturday afternoon at Villa Maria Academy.
The host Hurricanes were coming into the game with a 10-0 record, and two days earlier had defeated perennial power Gwynedd Mercy in the District 1 2A championship final, scoring five goals in the second quarter alone.
Saturday, Carroll proved equal to the task, defeating Villa Maria, 2-1. The Patriots advance to Tuesday’s PIAA 2A state semifinal against District 11 champ Southern Lehigh.
Villa Maria kept knocking on the door all afternoon – the Hurricanes had 15 penalty corners, compared to the Patriots’ six – but Carroll shut out the hosts until 5 ½ minutes were left in the game.
“Coming in, we knew that Villa Maria was a really, really skilled team, and we knew we couldn’t back down, we couldn’t let up,” said Carroll head coach Christina Elisio. “We knew they were going to go inside-outside, inside-outside with their passes. We kept practicing our defense [last week], getting in front of the ball and cutting to the ball.”
For Carroll, senior Nicole Pawlec, sophomore Courtland Schumacher, junior Annie Dvonch, and senior goalie Courtney Keith (nine saves) were among the strong defensive contributors Saturday.
“It was a team effort today – I don’t think I could point out one standout, it was all 11 of our players,” said Elisio. “They really supported one another.”
“We just came out ready to go,” said Carroll senior midfielder Carleigh Conners, a James Madison University field hockey commit . “We lost in the first round of States last year, [but] I think we’re a stronger team this year.”
The Patriots suffered a setback in the first half Saturday when two of their top goal scorers, senior Karli Dougherty and senior captain Julia Kingsbury (a St. Joseph’s University field hockey commit), were injured and had to leave the game.
Fortunately for Carroll, both players returned in the second half. Just 4 ½ minutes into the third quarter, Dougherty helped break the scoring ice when, on a corner, she passed the ball to sophomore Cate McConaghy, who tipped it into the net to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead.
“Once we got that first goal, it kind of gave us more adrenaline, made us feel like we’ve got to keep scoring,” said Conners.
“I think that first goal kind of set the mood and the tone a little bit,” said Elisio. “It got everyone revved up, got them excited, and from then on [our players] didn’t duck down.”
With 1:32 left in the third quarter, Carroll was awarded a penalty stroke, which Conners converted with a shot into to the upper right corner of the net. It was her first penalty stroke of the season.
The potentially explosive Hurricanes put on one last push in the final quarter Saturday. With 5:28 left in the game, Villa Maria junior back Maia Dechiario scored off a corner, assisted by Gia Whalen, to cut the Carroll lead to 2-1. But the Patriots, helped throughout the game by fine midfield play from Connors and solid passing from freshman standout Sienna Golden and junior Grace O’Neill, maintained the lead the rest of the way.
“Villa Maria is a phenomenal team,” said Elisio. “We stepped up today, we didn’t give up, we kept hustling. I’m just really proud of all of our players.”
Hurricane head coach Katie Evans said, “We have such a young team this year, and today it showed a little bit. We had a lot of shots, but we couldn’t convert them.
“We have a lot of juniors on our team who will be back next fall. I’m just grateful that we had a field hockey season this fall. This season for us was about growing and learning.”
Archbishop Carroll 2, Villa Maria 1
Archbishop Carroll 0 0 2 0 – 2
Villa Maria 0 0 0 1 – 1
Archbishop Carroll goals: McConaghy, Conners.
Villa Maria goal: Dechiario.
Goalie saves: AC – Keith 9. VM – Stringer 5.