The No. 2 Mercy girls soccer team didn't know what to expect going into its game against perennial national power Pennington, of New Jersey, at the McDonogh Invitational on Saturday.
Despite falling, 2-1, the Magic left feeling plenty satisfied, showing it wasn't too far behind a quality opponent that came in ranked No. 3 in the ESPNHS national poll.
Mercy (2-1) had its share of positive moments in the first half before Pennington got a goal from Cydney Staton with under two minutes to play for a 1-0 halftime lead. After Pennington made it 2-0 on an Allison Vickers goal, the Magic stayed close with Alexis Prior-Brown making it 2-1 with 15 minutes left.
Prior-Brown, a All-Metro first-team selection last year, got behind the Pennington defense and maneuvered by goalie Jessica Ratner to score on an empty net. Alexandra Pryor tried to pull Mercy even with a heavy shot from 30 yards in the final minute, but Ratner was there to save it and secure the win for Pennington.
"I think playing one of the best teams in the country is something new to a lot of our players. They've never really played at this level," Mercy coach Doug Pryor said. "So there was a lot of positives for us to look at as a team and go forward. I thought, for the most part, it was a pretty even game. I think they had us by a little bit, but I think the experience will make us better in November.
"I think after the first five or so minutes they kind of realized the could hang in there. I liked the effort. "
Paul VI (N.J.) 1, No. 1 McDonogh 0: Despite having the better of the play and more scoring chances for much of the game, the Eagles surrendered a goal by Brittany Ratcliffe with 15 minutes left and couldn't respond, falling to 2-1 on the season.
McDonogh, ranked second in the ESPNHS national poll, will take on top-ranked Lenape (N.J.) at 10 a.m. Sunday in the tournament finale. Paul VI came into Saturday's game ranked sixth in the nation.
Pennington (N.J.) 2, 2 Mercy 1
Goals: M – Prior-Brown; P – Staton, Vickers.
Assists: P – Brown.
Saves: M – Bourne 5; P – Ratner 4.
Half: P, 1-0.