Field Hockey: Putting a bow on the 2012 season

Winter sports practice has already begun. Every fall sports team, save for Interboro’s football team, is done for the year, and many of those athletes have already joined in on the winter fun. Delco will undoubtedly have its fair share of championship-caliber athletes this winter, but before we get to those sports, maybe it’s time to close out the field hockey season.

There was a lot for Episcopal Academy to celebrate after a 3-1 win over rival Notre Dame to claim its first PAISAA championship. 

TIMES STAFF/ERIC HARTLINE

Only one team finished its postseason run with a win, and that team is Episcopal Academy. The Churchmen avenged one of their two losses of the year with a convincing 3-1 victory over rival Notre Dame to claim its first PAISAA championship after being knocked off, 2-0, the year before by the Irish. Statistically, ND controlled play. The Irish had a 12-2 edge in corners and generally had better scoring opportunities, but the Churchmen used a goal from All-Delco Alana Dumas 2:30 into the game to get off on the right foot and never look back. Dumas’ goal was kind of weird in the sense that nobody on the ND defense seemed particularly interested in attempting to stop her. I don’t know if the Irish didn’t expect her to shoot, thought she shot from outside the scoring circle or maybe expected a pass, but there was a lot of standing around and watching on an odd play.

“I got the ball from midfield and I was just carrying it through,” Dumas said, “and I realized when I stepped into the circle, my front stick was cut off, so I looked to pass reverse and it went in. …I think (the goal) really motivated us and showed us we’re in this, we’re contenders. We can score goals and that we can win. It really got the ball rolling.”

It certainly did, as did Lexie Curry‘s tap-in of a Margaux Paolino centering pass, but it was the defensive effort from EA that helped slow down a potent Irish offense that finished with the second most goals in Delco and the best goal differential.

More after the jump.

The likes of Claire Kneizys and Tori Sarmiento were instrumental in that stalwart defensive effort. It seemed like the Irish had a gameplan to let anyone other than two-time All-Delco Moira Putsch beat them, and it worked. Mind you, everyone seems to have that plan when they play ND, but not everyone has the players to pull it off. Limiting Putsch to one point, an assist on fellow All-Delco Emily Faught‘s goal to spoil Gianna Pileggi‘s shutout bid with 7:52 to go, is pretty much as well as you can expect things to go. Wherever Putsch went, it seemed like there was a wave of EA players following her. The Irish still got their chances, but Pileggi was up to the task with some big saves.

“They’re a fast team,” Putsch said. “They have really fast players. We tried our best. I think there are some things that we could have done differently. It’s a learning experience and we’re going to learn from it and come back from it twice as hard as next year. …(It’s) so much motivation. It’s a rivalry that just grows and grows each and every year.”

Faught ended up finishing tied for fifth in the county in goals (20) and was sixth in points (32) as a midfielder who might have been even better defensively than she was offensively. Here’s the most impressive part: she played three-fourths of the year with a stress fracture in her foot. If that doesn’t impress you, I suspect that very little will. But against EA, she was frustrated by the Churchmen’s stingy defense.

“They had a lot of people in the circle and it was hard for us to capitalize on our corners and our shots that should have gone in,” said Faught, who is headed to Virginia next year. “(Missing chances weighs on our minds) a lot because at times like this, I kind of put a lot of it on myself instead of my teammates, but I wouldn’t have rather ended a season with any other people.”

While the two rivals have been the only two teams to make the PAISAA final in the past two years, don’t be surprised if Agnes Irwin eventually crashes the party. The Owls were much improved this year and they should bring back a nice group of players, led by Sophia Tornetta, who had 18 goals this year. Might 2013 be the year where AIS breaks up the EA-ND stranglehold?

Marissa Cicione, seen here scoring her 45th and perhaps her prettiest goal of the year, is a big reason why Cardinal O’Hara will be a big PIAA threat next year. Can the Lions win a state title?

TIMES STAFF/ERIC HARTLINE

Cardinal O’Hara — 2013 PIAA champions?

It might seem that way, actually. I maintain that the Lions showed up a year earlier than expected, and while they lose Delco assists leader Carlie Spaeder to Rider Universitythey also bring back nearly everyone to a team that made the state tournament and claimed the District 12 championship. O’Hara was also one of two teams to beat Episcopal Academy – and did it at EA, no less – and it’s hard to imagine them not being at least a contender for the PIAA title. Marissa Cicione and Putsch shattered the previous county record of 37 goals in a season with 45 apiece, and Cicione will have All-Delco and two-time Catholic League MVP Grace Boston, who tied Cicione for the team lead with 55 points, helping out.

But as good as those two are, they’ll also have great supporting cast. The more I see Jess Randazzo play, the more I think she’s destined to be a star next year, and midfielder Gabby Rowe and defender Lauren DelRomano are as nice a defensive foundation as anyone. As if coach Marie Murphy didn’t have enough luxuries back next year, throw in goalie Liz Piszker into the mix. You know, the one who finished second in save percentage and third in shutouts in Delco. With three-time defending Catholic League champion Archbishop Carroll being hit hard by graduation for the second straight year, it’s hard to not imagine that O’Hara will be a heavy favorite to win the league next year. The Lions led the county with 121 (!!!) goals this year, which is absurd. What’s even more absurd is the fact that that number will balloon up next year. Might that mean a state title?

I already touched base on the rest of the PIAA teams on an earlier post, so feel free to check that out. The All-Delco team is tentatively scheduled to run next Tuesday, Nov. 27. I’ll post an All-Delco schedule as soon as I get an official copy. Until then, though, here are a few different awards to give out.

Freshman of the Year: Margaux Paolino, Episcopal Academy. Runner-up: Tess Horan, Haverford.

Hard not to go with the Churchmen’s second-leading point-getter. Paolino ranked behind Dumas in goals, assists, and points,  but considering she scored 17 goals to go with 13 assists, that’s not too shabby, especially considering the schedule that EA played. Paolino earned All-Inter-Ac honors and she’ll be expected to play a bigger role next year.

Horan was tied for second on the Fords with 12 points, including five goals. She had her breakout moment with the overtime marker to beat Strath Haven in district play. With Haverford getting hit hard by graduation, Horan will face bigger expectations next year.

Best Game (that I covered): Haverford’s 2-1 win over Strath Haven in the regular season. Good back-and-forth game, and while it didn’t have a ton of scoring opportunities, it had the feel of a playoff game. Natalie Bova ended it when she smacked home a loose ball in overtime. Runner-up: Garnet Valley’s 2-1 overtime loss to Mount St. Joseph in the second round of districts. An unfortunate loss for the Jaguars, but goodness, the entertainment factor was off the charts. The 7-on-7 overtime provided scoring chances for both teams, and Hailey Valerio might have had the save of the season right with an astounding kick save before the Magic ended the game.

Best Goal (that I covered): Marissa Cicione, Cardinal O’Hara vs. Wissahickon. Runner-up: Moira Putsch vs. Episcopal Academy in the first game. Wissahickon got the win, but what a goal from Cicione to tie it up with less than 2:30 to go. The speedster weaved her way through the Trojans’ defense, somehow never losing the ball before scoring. Just incredible.

Putsch’s goal was similar, and one that left her temporarily airborne as she tapped in her rebound.

Most Underrated Player (that I covered): Casey Oehler, Strath Haven. Runner-up: Charlotte Posauner, Radnor.

You can make a case for pretty much any defensive player because, well, yeah, that’s the nature of the sport. But when the All-Central team came out and I saw that Oehler made second team, I was flat-out stunned. She’s superb. Rarely out of position, smart, and always makes the right play. I see less games than the coaches do, but I thought Oehler was a lock for first-team All-Central. Shows what I know, right? 

Posauner got lost in the shuffle for the Red Raiders, again mostly because she’s so good defensively. But she stood out to me every time I saw the Red Raiders play. Like Oehler, Posauner rarely made mistakes and always seemed to be a half-step ahead of everyone else in the mental aspect of the game.

Finally, we’re at the end of the season. Stats have been updated. There are goals, assists, points and goalie leaders to go with team stats. If there’s anything wrong with it that needs to be corrected, don’t freak out and call me every name under the sun. A simple email to mchandik@delcotimes.com to let me know what needs to be fixed will do the trick. Again, look for the All-Delco team next week. I’ll be stopping in periodically if players commit to colleges – look for something on Giulz Antignani and Spaeder later this week – but other than that, it’s on to wrestling and hockey for me. I hope you enjoyed the coverage and hope you’ll stop by for all of the other sports.

 MATT CHANDIK

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