New Hope-Solebury will add their first District One Championship banner to the gym rafters after topping Gwynedd Mercy 3-0 on Friday at Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Victory Field. The Lions should have a lot of pride. They entered the game as the #1 seed after wrapping up their regular season 17-0, averaging 7.83 goals per game and allowing only one goal all season. No doubt – NHS was the favorite, but facing formidable #3 Gwynedd Mercy, who topped NHS last year for the title, was no easy task.
The Monarchs were tough, never gave up, and demonstrated what they’re made of the second half. But, NHS’s first half and supreme teamwork for 60 minutes won them the game. Their small passing game was outstanding with multiple passes strung together, often in heavy traffic, and involved all ten field players either passing and receiving or stretching the field to pull defenders out of harm’s way. Combine the passing game with an attack that capitalized on opportunities, a savvy midfield that knew when to switch fields, and a defense that refused to let the ball in and you’ve got a championship team.
“We’ve had an interesting year; they’ve just really been dialed in and this win is just awesome,” said Gwen Smith, New Hope-Solebury Head Coach. “I’m so proud of these girls, what they bring every day — working hard, trying to improve. And I’m just so proud that we brought it today.”
Statistically, the two teams matched up at 6 shots on goal while Gwynedd Mercy outdid New Hope-Solebury on corners, earning 14 to 4 – ten coming in a 14-minute span in the second half when the Monarchs dominated possession, particularly inside their offensive 25. But, NHS’s defense, anchored by center back Carolyn Thistlewaite and goalkeeper Elsie Jones, fended off Gwynedd’s corners and offensive push with their low-to-the-ground stance and powerful clears.
“Our defense is disciplined, composed, confident and they stayed on task today; they did what they were supposed to do,” continued Smith. “They didn’t get rattled when Gwynedd was coming on strong, and Gwynedd is a fantastic team. But our defense was really solid. A lot of people think that our defense may not be that good because they haven’t really been tested because we’ve kind of dominated in the league, but I’ve known how good they are. They really showed it today.”
“It was a little scary when they (Gwynedd) had all of those corners,” said Thistlewaite. “But we were able to clear it out over and over again, and we did that very well… We really played as a team and it paid off.”
In addition to defensive prowess, NHS capitalized on 50% of their four corners, scoring twice when they were numbers-up. The first goal of the game came off a corner at 15:58 when Erin Firth tipped the ball from MacKenzie Meyers after three short passes inside the circle. Less than five minutes later, Lilly Smith found the back of the net on a pass from Annelise Dahlin, also on a corner and also following a series of short passes.
The third – and last goal of the game – had the NHS Lions bench roaring. Sarah Wilson, Phila-area’s most prolific goal scorer, dribbled between two defenders, beginning just outside the top of the circle, before finding the backboard. The goal was Wilson’s 111th of her career, placing her at the top of the Bicentennial League Leaderboard for goals, tied with Jill Bolton (Dock ’17).
“It feels really good – winning today — especially after 3 years of not even coming close to it. And to win it 3-0 is pretty exciting and fun,” Wilson said. “I think we came in relaxed, especially in the first half. We don’t always come out strong but today we did, and we just played our game… I think our teamwork is what makes us so good and what is so fun; we just really play all together and no one is taking the credit.”
Gwynedd Mercy’s Katie Cusumano and Gabby Saxon set the tone for the second half effectively transitioning the ball to the midfielders and forward line, particularly Alden Boccella who leads the Monarchs’ attack, but who was shut down by Wilson, Meyers, Thistlewaite, Claudia Koeppen and rest of the Lion pride.
“I think as soon as we stepped on the field, we didn’t have our strongest warmup and that kind of set the tone and we didn’t start as well as we usually do,” said Cusumano. “The second half, we started to really play our game but we just didn’t connect as strong as we wanted to the whole game,” said Cusumano.
“I did expect the second-half team to be our entire-game team,” said Alex McMahan, Gwynedd Mercy Head Coach. “We came out slow and New Hope is a really strong team. They are seasoned in how to succeed and they played fantastic. They move the ball really well; they had fantastic defense and we couldn’t adjust in our attacking circle. They were low all of the time; their block tackles just shut down all of our forwards and all of our shooting.”
District 1/12 Regional playoffs kick in tomorrow and it’s likely that New Hope-Solebury and Gwynedd Mercy will meet again on Thursday for the championship game. A few things are certain: Gwynedd will hope to jump start their game in the first half and New-Hope Solebury will stay true to their game plan of short passes and solid teamwork.
“I’m really proud of their second half effort,” continued McMahan. “It’s how I would have liked to see them play from the start but to be able to play that way when they were down three goals, in the championship is great. I’m proud of what they were able to accomplish in the second half which was controlling the ball and dominating the play, so hopefully moving forward we’re never going to have a first half lapse again.”
“Teamwork is the only way we know how to do it. Our school is tiny. We don’t have a lot of club players who play together all year long, we just don’t. It’s just the kids coming in, putting the time in, and playing as a unit all of the time. I am so proud and want them to know that when you really work as a team, you can accomplish great things.”
The District One A Championship was also the Philafieldhockey GAME OF THE WEEK, which garnered 1,200+ online votes.
Erin Firth assisted by MacKenzie Meyers (15:58)
Lilly Smith assisted by Annelise Dahlin (13:06)
Sarah Wilson assisted by Smith (6:39)
shots on goal: 6 (3,3)
corners: 4 (3, 1)
GK Elsie Jones saves: 5 (3,2)
shots on goal: 6 (3,3)
CLICK HERE for video highlights of this week’s Game of the Week, presented by SFBN.
Click on each photo to view better. Also, visit @Philafh on Facebook for the PhilaFH GAME OF THE WEEK NHS vs. GMA photo album (47 photos).
photo credit: Arden Simone
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