There’s no need to sugarcoat things: Marple Newtown looked completely overmatched Friday in its District One Class AA semifinal loss to Gwynedd Mercy Academy.
The circumstances were anything but ideal for a team making its deepest inroads in the playoffs in program history: An odd start time, a less-than-neutral site at Gwynedd-Mercy College, a long wait due to Hurricane Sandy and blustery, damp conditions at the start from a passing cloudburst.
But perhaps most evident for the Tigers was the fact that their young squad was simply short on big-game experience compared to the higher-seeded Monarchs. It’s why GMA was able to capitalize time and again through super senior Taylor Caparo, while the lack of a definitive final touch when Marple dominated play for large stretches may have been indicative of a youthful attack looking for someone to step up.
Let’s be clear: The 4-0 trouncing delivered by Gwynedd Mercy is not the game that will define Marple’s season. Something tells me that it will soon go down as a mere footnote in a much more triumphant story.
The Tigers will say goodbye to five seniors who were part of the most successful season in school history, taking them from one win in the last two years combined to nine this campaign, including the program’s first playoff appearance. Coach Janine Conley will have to find a goalkeeper somewhere, as starter Kylie Klos and backup Amy Cellucci depart, and defender Brigid Kyne is another whose contributions will not be easily replaced.
But the bulk of this groundbreaking Marple team is comprised of underclassmen. Of the 34 goals scored this season, only two were scored by seniors (both by Madison Collins). The midfield fulcrum of Holly Nicolardi (sophomore) and Deidre Bradley (junior) has another year together to add seasoning to the tremendous height and strength they possess.
Nicolardi, the team’s leading scorer with nine goals, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attacking talent. Bradley scored seven times this season, as did freshman Megan Lynch, whose twin sister Julia added a pair of goals. Sophomores Amanda Goodyear (three) and Brianna Farrell (two) also provide attacking threats. And in Danielle Collins, Carley Vegso and Morgan McAndrews, the sophomore class provides another trio of solid players who were used mainly in defense this season.
When you think about the strength of the sophomore class (Collins, Farrell, Goodyear, McAndrews, Nicolardi, Vegso and Gemma Ciarrocchi), the Tigers’ best might still be two years away. It’s the type of class that – if they can stay together and stay healthy – is the foundation on which to build a program.
That means far more sunny days beyond Friday’s loss.