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AACA champion Merion Mercy lacrosse squad on the rise

The Merion Mercy Academy lacrosse squad, which captured its seventh straight AACA championship and won the first two rounds of the PIAA District One tournament (knocking off No. 3 seed Great Valley in the second round), is more talented than ever, according to MMA head coach John Geary.

“This [team] is the largest group of Division I committed players we have ever had,” said Geary, whose squad includes 12 juniors and five seniors. “This wealth of upperclassmen, who are bringing speed, skills and lacrosse acumen, are a combination which Merion has rarely had in the past.  The sport has grown to have a strong foundation at [Merion Mercy] and Karen Corcoran has done a wonderful job schooling the JV players to be ready for their varsity opportunities.

“What is [really] special about this team is the relationships among the players.  They are genuinely interested in each other’s success and understand that this leads to a better and stronger team effort.  Merion lacrosse had its first ever spring trip [this year], and we played some excellent Virginia-based talent and even more importantly had a fantastic bonding experience.”

Leading the Golden Bears in both goals (49 as of Monday) and assists (40 as of Monday) has been junior attack Caroline Steller, a Marquette University commit who will be a team captain next spring.

“[Steller] is wonderfully creative in her shot making,” said Geary.

Junior midfielder Kaely Kyle is Merion’s second-leading goal scorer (45 goals as of Monday)), and is a captain-elect for next year. She is committed to High Point University, where she will join MMA grad Liv Nostrant on the women’s lacrosse team.

“[Kyle] is a hard driving middie who has the strongest shot on the team,” said Geary. “She also has given us a strong draw performance.”

Junior midfielder Allie Scannapieco, a George Washington University commit and another captain-elect for next year, is second to Steller in total points (33 goals, 28 assists as of Monday).

“As a lefty, she uses this advantage to set her defenders,” said Geary. “Allie is our program’s speedster.”

Senior midfielder and captain Jackie Benedict, who is headed to Jacksonville University to play lacrosse next spring, has a wide range of skills.

“[Benedict] gives us strong draw performance, and has a rocket-hard shot,” said Geary. “Her maturity provided strong leadership this season.”

Another all-around performer for the Golden Bears has been senior midfielder and captain Caroline Heath, who will be playing lacrosse for St. Joseph’s University next spring. Her older sister Alison, a Radnor High School grad, also played lacrosse on Hawk Hill.

“[Heath] started the season slowly but by mid-season was in her usual dominant form,” said Geary. “Caroline excels at all of the unsung things: ground ball, transitions and first cuts and make room for her teammates to shine.  She is ferocious on defense.”

Speaking of defense, the Golden Bears feature senior defender and co-captain Amelia Piccone, senior defender and co-captain Kait Devine, junior defender Maggie Wilson (committed to Dickinson College) and junior defender Kelsey Farkas (committed to playing field hockey at Columbia.)

“Our starting defense is a group that has played together for several years and [to me] is simply one of the best in the entire PASLA section,” said Geary. “It’s a well-oiled machine adjusting easily to multiple defensive stunts and having terrific confidence on stopping the most prolific scorers.”

In the net, goalies Lauren Thomas and MaryCate Markey (an Old Dominion University commit) have shared duties in the cage.

“Both [goalies] have had momentum changing moments which have been key to our successful record this season,” said Geary.

Another solid contributor for the Golden Bears this spring is junior midfielder Kolbe Keating, who has committed to playing field hockey at Harvard (she is one of seven siblings to have played field hockey at MMA.)

Two juniors who have really found their footing over the season are Brittney Bedrossian and Brenna Stone.

Geary said, “As low attackers [Bedrossian and Stone] have a myriad of responsibilities:  feeding, positioning and up cuts.  Both players have done an excellent job of rounding out the offense.”

Merion Mercy (12-6 as of Monday), knocked off No. 14 seed Spring-Ford Tuesday in the opening round of the PIAA District One playoffs (the Golden Bears were seeded 19th.) Thursday, Merion defeated No. 3 seed Great Valley, 12-9, in the second round, led by Caroline Steller (two goals, two assists), Jackie Benedict (one goal, one assist), Kaely Kyle (three goals), Caroiline Heath (one goal, one assist), Allie Scannapieco (four goals), Arianna Lavelle (one goal) and Lauren Thomas (12 saves).

Merion faced its biggest test of the regular season against Mount St. Joseph May 9. The Golden Bears had lost to Mount earlier in the season, and another loss would mean Merion Mercy would have to share the AACA title with Mount St. Joseph.

“We felt that individually and as a team we were better than that first meeting,” said Geary. “We prepped to have greater intensity on both offense and defense and to execute from the initial whistle. Our girls worked hard to control their own destiny [against Mount].”

Merion prevailed against Mount, 10-9, as Kaely Kyle and Allie Scannapieco each scored three goals, Caroline Steller had two goals and two assists.

Geary added, “On defense Amelia Piccone had another terrific game, both in the low defense area and clearing through the midfield.  Lauren Thomas (13 saves) had arguably her best showing of the season – several of her saves were momentum-changing.”

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