No. 1 Villa Maria falls in semis
MALVERN » Top-seeded Villa Maria Academy was looking good in the first 10 minutes of its District 1 2A field hockey semifinal against No. 4 Merion Mercy Tuesday.
The defending District 1 champion Hurricanes kept pushing the ball into enemy territory, got a goal from forward Hannah Miller less than seven minutes into the game, and held a 1-0 lead midway through the first half on their home turf.
But the visiting Golden Bears began to rally, tying it on a goal by Jaime Natale, and never trailing thereafter, in an emotional 3-2 win for Merion Mercy.
The Golden Bears (15-4-2) advance to the district final against No. 2 seed Mount St. Joseph’s Saturday. Villa Maria will host No. 6 seed West Chester East Friday in
the third-place game, which will help determine state tournament seeding for the Hurricanes (17-2).
“Villa Maria’s players are known for their high level of skill and talent,” said Merion Mercy head coach Greta Ehret. “I told our players three things coming into this game — that they’ve got to want it more [than Villa], to have a lot of fun out there, and to believe in themselves deep down.
“They just never gave up today.”
The two teams had met twice during the regular season, Merion Mercy winning the first contest, 2-1, Sept. 6; and Villa Maria prevailing in the second, 5-1, Sept. 27. The 2-1 loss to Merion Mercy two months ago was the only defeat the Hurricanes (17-2) had suffered coming into Tuesday.
“We made too many mistakes today, too many turnovers,” said Villa Maria head coach Daan Polders. “We just didn’t play our game. We didn’t play as a team like we did [in the earlier 5-1 win against Merion]. In the first eight, nine minutes today, we were passing the ball well, moving it well and using the whole field — but later we made it too easy for Merion Mercy.”
Late in the first half, Merion Mercy midfielder/defender Kelsey Farkas gave the Golden Bears their first lead of the afternoon with a shot from the left corner.
“I was so overjoyed when I saw the ball go in,” said Farkas. “I felt like, at that point, we had a great shot to win the game. Maybe in the first few minutes, we were [hanging back] a little, but then we brought it together, passing the ball to our forwards a lot more, playing with more aggression and a lot of heart.”
Ehret said, “The leadership of our three captains — Jamie Natale among the forwards, Kolbe Keating among the midfielders, and Kelsey Farkas among the defenders — really pulled our team up throughout the game.”
Natale said, “In every huddle today, we just kept telling each other to stay positive, to work as a team.”
With less than two minutes to go before halftime, Villa Maria struck again, this time on a goal from forward Anina Iacobucci (assisted by Lindsay Dickinson) to tie the score at 2-2 at the half.
Midway through the second half, the Merion Mercy forward combination of Allie Scannapieco to Caroline Steller led to another goal for the visitors, as Steller (who had assisted on Natale’s opening goal) took it down the right side and drove it into the corner of the goal. The 3-2 lead held up against repeated attacks by the Hurricanes in the final minutes.
Polders praised the persistent efforts of Villa forward Emily Doyle: “She was moving into space well today — she’s always asking for the ball.”
Villa Maria came close to tieing the score in the final minute, taking several close shots at the Merion goal.
Farkas said, “I just kept telling our goalie (Shannon Bedrossian) in the last minute, ‘Just keep it out of the goal, we’ll get the rebound.’”
Merion Mercy’s Caitlin Farkas keeps the ball away from Villa Maria’s Emily Doyle Tuesday afternoon.
Villa Maria’s Hannah Miller fires at goal but Merion Mercy’s Kelsey Farkas keeps it away from her With Alexendria La Velle (18) and Kolbe Keating trying to stop her.