Girls Soccer: Episcopal Academy taking charge of Inter-Ac

The warmups worn by the Episcopal Academy girls soccer team lack any frills. Emblazoned on the back is a brief yet focused message: “Take it back.”

The “it” is simply stated: An Inter-Ac title. The “take” part has looked every bit as simple in the early going.

Kristen Hinckley has been one of the driving forces behind Episcopal’s recent rise in the Inter-Ac League (Times Staff / JULIA WILKINSON)

Through one turn of the Inter-Ac’s home-and-home league slate, the Churchmen have compiled a 5-0-1 record, the lone dropped points coming against Germantown Academy, the team nearest EA’s place at the summit of the league.

They’ve also survived the start of a devilish week, getting by Baldwin, 7-3, Tuesday before Wednesday’s 3-0 shutout of Friends’ Central in nonleague play.

“I think that it’s setting us up for not just today or tomorrow, but weeks from now, months from now, next year,” coach Celeste Melanson said of the challenge of games in back-to-back days. “It really gets us in that mindset that this is a strong program and a program that’s going to last us for a very long time.”

At the center of EA’s resurgence has been a revitalized attack that is scoring goals by the bunches, a total of 32 in the last nine matches after tallying just twice in the season’s first four matches. The Churchmen have speedy options like Kristina Zahan and Sky Aitken leading the forward line, plus creative two-way presences like Leah Becker and Kristen Hinckley who are very strong on the ball. Add to that mix impressive central midfielder Meredith Manley and the emergence of wide midfielder Casey Smyth, who scored her first two goals of the season Wednesday.

It’s a daunting set of skilled players to try to contain.

“I think that the girls are at this point playing very unselfishly,” Melanson said. “I think they’re playing more as a team, and I think overall, we’re just working together so much more, and it’s all clicking right at the right time.”

The variety of reasons given by the players for the offensive turnaround show just how many factors have gone into the change of course.

“I think we really tried to work on switching the field and not holding the ball,” Smyth said. “We had some problems earlier in the season with all of our offense taking an extra touch, and we’ve tried to do quicker through balls.”

“It’s probably just playing more together throughout the season,” Becker said. “We’ve had enough games together that we can really work as a team.”

Only time will tell if that’s a championship team.

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