The Philafieldhockey Game of the Week (3) lived up to the expectations of the nearly 1,100 online voters who selected the match among four Phila-area high school games. Villa Maria and Mount St. Joseph’s faced off on Tuesday, September 19 in a highly anticipated battle for Catholic Academies League bragging rights. Both teams had only one mar on their records in non-league play: Mount tying Notre Dame and Villa falling in game 1 to still-undefeated Downingtown West (8-0).
Both schools lived up to their reputations of fielding strong hockey teams that played with skill and discipline. And despite Mount’s strong defensive game and their ability to score on limited opportunities, Villa’s outstanding passing game and use of the entire field was just too much for the Magic. Villa fired off 30 shots on goal to Mount’s 11 and more than doubled Mount’s corner attempts, with 12. More so, the Hurricanes’ confidence in each and every player was evident as a total team effort resulted in a 6-3 victory with 5 different goal scorers for Villa.
Leading the Hurricanes’ storm was senior captain and center midfielder, Lindsay Dickinson and junior forward, Hannah Miller. The two not only accounted for 3 goals and 1 assist but also controlled the flow of the team’s very smooth game.
“Personally, I don’t feel pressure. That’s something, as a team, we do very well together. We don’t focus on having one person carry all the weight; we spread it out to all of us,” said Dickinson. “We knew this was going to be a very tough game. The Mount is a very good opponent. They have a lot of speed, they have a lot of offensive movement, a lot of transfers and they have a really strong defense. Trying to pressure them early and trying to defend our 25 were goals for us.”
The game, played at The Proving Grounds, got off to a fast start with Villa posting their first shot on goal in under a minute and a corner in under two. The team fired off nine shots on goal before the Mount even possessed the ball inside their offensive circle — but the Mount capitalized on opportunity. Junior forward Ellie Maransky deftly redirected an aerial to the back of the net at 17:15 to lead 1-0.
Villa responded with a time-out and two quick goals once they took the field from Miller (15:12) – a 12-yard blast — and Erin Zielinksi (14:43) off a scramble in front of the net.
“At the time-out, we basically tried to calm things down, to not be so frantic and so fast. I think we were rushing and started to make mistakes, and we tried to slow it down in a certain way” said Villa Head Coach, Daan Polders. “And that worked.”
Less than a minute later, Mount junior Julianna Kratz made the game even more interesting, blasting a goal from 13 yards, after Villa’s aggressive goalkeeper Danielle Acuna was out of the goal. Kratz’s tally, at 14:16, tied up the game two apiece. But, it didn’t take long before Villa junior Adele Iacobucci, who made beautiful connections throughout the 60 minutes, notched the final goal of the half – a signature blast from the right side – at 13:43. The half ended with Villa in the lead 3-2. It was clearly anyone’s game.
The half was marked by Mount demonstrating its strong defensive, anchored by junior goalkeeper Maeve McCarthy (13 saves) and senior center back Jax Nyzio, as well as their ability to capitalize on opportunity as they scored 2 goals while only touching the ball inside their offensive circle seven times.
“They have a lot of talented forwards, they pass a lot and very quickly, and they’re very talented dribbling on the baseline,” noted Nyzio. “They know how to draw players so I think it was hard to manage working so many strengths. It was tough.”
For Villa – the first half was a show of finely executed passing, refined skills, and the ability to strike and strike again. Throughout the game, all lines of Villa’s squad worked in unison. Senior captain and center back, Mary Harkins quarterbacked the defense, transferring big balls with dead-on accuracy to the middies. Dickinson and Iacobucci – both midfielders — were as savvy in working the ball into their circle and shooting with power as they were in setting up their forward line.
The second half started off strong for both teams with Mount senior captains, Mary Kate Stefanowicz and Grace Wallis picking up the pace for the Magic with their speed and transfers. But Villa – with numerous passing combinations from Harkins, Dickinson, senior Brianna Deitz and Iacobucci, peppered with remarkable elimination skills by Miller — found the net first at 21:14 (Dickinson, 10 meter). Mount’s Wallace answered at 20:29 on a powerful direct hit off a corner. It would be the last goal of the game for Mount.
“I think at the beginning we really held them but once they got their first goal, we didn’t really settle down and it was kind of rough for us,” said Stefanowicz. “They had really good passing – finding open girls all over the field — and it really split us up. I think our defense did very well. I mean, they had 29 (30) shots – and our D did an awesome job. They (Villa) got some luck opportunities but we did our best. We really wanted to give a good game and I think we did.”
Wallice added: “We started out really strong but weren’t able to keep at it, and I think Villa did really well. It was great that we had so much support to get Game of the Week and overall, we played well, I guess.”
Two more Villa goals – a redirect from Maggie Powers (18:17) and a final goal by Dickinson (10:31), after a baseline run and nearly impossible angle, wrapped up the game.
“It was very fast and aggressive. Villa is a very talented team and they’re very deep,” said Head Co-Coach Mary Beth Stefanowicz. “We have a young bench and are trying to bring them along so I think it was good. I think we played a great game.”
Fellow Mount Co-Coach, Jeannie Wallis echoed Stefanowicz’s sentiments of a young team. “We just don’t have all the pieces and they seem to have all the pieces. We have girls that are developing, and there’s a lot of growth there but we’re not there yet. We also don’t get the turf time, which is a challenge for us, but we’re getting there.”
Tonight, Villa blanked defending Catholic Academies League champs Merion Mercy, 7-0 — another sign of dominance in the league. Both teams face Catholic Academies League opponents next week (and Villa will also face Central powerhouse, Conestoga) and meet up again on October 21 on Villa’s turf.
Villa’s Miller shared her thoughts on being part of the Game of the Week and the big picture: States. “Our whole entire team was just so ecstatic that we won (the poll) and we’d get to showcase our hard work and determination to make a comeback this year. We take every game one at a time but I think we’ve got it this year. We have confidence in ourselves to go all the way.”
photo credit: Jake Gallagher
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