Coming into the PIAA Class AA playoffs as the third seed from District One, Gwynedd Mercy Academy was not projected to make much noise. If their lopsided quarterfinal win over Archbishop Carroll is any indication, however, it would not be surprising to see the Monarchs win a state title.
GMA made a statement by downing District 12 champion Carroll 4-1 Saturday at Wissahickon. Bossing the midfield, showing potency on offense and playing great defense, the Monarchs showed how good they could be and put the rest of the bracket on notice.
"It was super exciting because we wanted it so bad,' two-goal scorer Nicole Catalino said. "It's unprecedented in Gwynedd history to make it this far, so we came here knowing what we had to do and did it.'
Although both sides saw quite a bit of the ball early, GMA was clearly the aggressor. Taking advantage of Carroll turnovers in the midfield, the Monarchs were dangerous around the cage, winning corners and putting shots on frame. It did not take GMA long to find the net, as Haley Durkin ran onto a pass, shimmied around a couple of defenders and fired it home just seven minutes into the first half. It was an ideal way to open such an important game.
"We were really focused on our offensive play, we knew we had to score goals early and execute on corners,' GMA coach Sue Perschetti said. "We knew that they were a strong offensive team, so we knew what we had to look out for.'
Where GMA had a cohesive attack and buildup, Carroll struggled to produce anything with menace in the first half. The Patriots got some possession in the GMA half, but struggled to produce many dangerous attempts at goal. An aggressive Monarchs defense also caused problems.
After winning a corner with 14 minutes left in the half, Corrine Perschietti blasted a shot from midrange that hit the back of the cage, giving the Monarchs a 2-0 lead. Even when Carroll built a bit of momentum and kept the ball in the GMA end, the Monarchs' defense remained strong and kept the opposition off the scoreboard. GMA went into halftime up a pair of goals and feeling quite confident.
"The defense did a great job,' Perschetti said. "They cleared the ball really well, stepped up when they needed to and we covered their [midfielders] really well. We started off a bit slow, but we regrouped quickly. We are really good on counter attack and we always seem to pull through on someone's defensive save.'
The Monarchs started off the second half with a bang when Catalino made a run from midfield, weaved through a host of Carroll defenders and shot with deadly accuracy to put GMA up 3-0. It staked a claim that the first half was not an aberration, but a statement of intent.
While the offense was building a cushion, GMA's physical defense remained stout. Carroll, clearly feeling desperate for goals, made some very good runs at goal and earned a few corners, but goalie Ava Rosati and the rest of the back line were having none of it.
Catalino put the game away with 21 minutes to go, taking an outlet pass after a failed Carroll attack, sprinting down field, beating the last defender and hitting it past the goalie. The Patriots scored with 10 minutes left and continued to press in the hope of a comeback, but GMA was too potent on both sides of the ball.
"It was great to score, but I don't do it for myself I do it for my team and my school,' Catalino said. "We're going all the way. We know we are the underdogs and that's the way we like it. It's good because no one sees us coming.'