No. 1 Villa Maria falls in semis

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bruce Adams badams@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @mline­s­ports on Twit­ter

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.’”

ANNE NEBORAK — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Me­rion Mercy’s Caitlin Farkas keeps the ball away from Villa Maria’s Emily Doyle Tues­day af­ter­noon.

ANNE NEBORAK — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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