PHILADELPHIA — Kerri Mountz didn't exactly have the most enviable of tasks when she finally got her chance to start in the Archbishop Carroll cage this season.
It's hard enough when you're finally afforded the opportunity to perform on the big stage, but it's quite another when you're taking over for someone who was a four-year starter, a three-time Catholic League champion and an all-league performer like Mountz did for Becca Brosious.
"It's hard," Mountz said. "But Becca and me were really close friends. She taught me a lot, but I feel pretty good now.'
It definitely looked like it Tuesday when Mountz backstopped the Patriots to a 3-0 whitewashing of Lancaster Mennonite in the first round of the PIAA Class AA tournament. The junior goalie denied nine attempts sent her way from the Blazers to book a second-round date with Gwynedd Mercy Academy, a 2-1 winner over Palmyra, Saturday at a place and time to be determined.
And if Mountz keeps performing the way she has been of late, the Patriots (14-7) could be doing even more damage. With her nine-save shutout, her seventh blanking of the season, Mountz upped her playoff save percentage to 89.3 percent, nearly seven full percentage points higher than her season average. A big part of that is the fact that she's finally entered her comfort zone in the Carroll cage.
"When I make a save,' Mountz added, "it's just, like, the best feeling ever. I get more confident with every save I make. ... After stepping into Becca's spot, I knew I'd have to step up. I prepared for this from August. I knew I would have to play my game. ... She taught me a lot of different things. Before coming into high school, I played one year of goalie, so I didn't really know what to do, so she taught me different dives, different strategies, and just watching her play made me confident as a goalie.'
That confidence was apparent against the Blazers, too. Mountz looked unfazed when Mennonite upped the pressure in the second half and amassed six corners that led to a seven-shot onslaught. Moments after Carroll's Meredith Campbell deflected a Becca Zamojcin pass home past Blazers goalie Kelsey Troyer for a 3-0 Patriots lead, it looked like Mennonite bounced back with a marker some 20 seconds later.
When that goal was waved off, though, after it was deemed the ball was touched with a high stick, Mountz felt pretty good about collecting her first postseason shutout.
"It was a big relief,' Mountz added with a smile.
Of course, it didn't hurt the Carroll cause that it was able to break through for three goals for only the third time in its past seven games. Freshman Sam Swart opened the scoring with 3:04 to go in the first half when she cranked a shot past Troyer for what proved to be the game-winning goal, but the Patriots opened things up in the second half.
Michaela Conners unleashed a nasty reverse less than seven minutes into the second half, and if that wasn't enough, Campbell's mission to extend her goal-scoring streak to three consecutive games firmly cemented the Patriots' spot in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2010.
"Our defense was just swarming (in the second half),' Swart said. "In the second half, we kind of got our heads in the game. This feels good, especially as a freshman, to be part of this team.'
One pregame concern about Carroll might have been to see how the Patriots would rebound after losing in overtime to Cardinal O'Hara in the Catholic League title game, but they didn't show many — if any — ill effects. Because of it, they're one of only eight teams left chasing a AA state championship.
"We kind of just got over that,' Swart said. "After that first goal came, everyone kind of stepped up and played their game in the second half.'
One down, three more to go for the Patriots, and those three wins would bring home a title that means just a little bit more than the PCL plaque.