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Gerstell girls soccer ‘grateful’ to be getting chance to play this fall

Eight seniors were recognized prior to Gerstell Academy’s girls soccer game Monday afternoon against Catholic, a moment the Falcons did their best to savor.

After all, not many of them held out hope such a event would take place this fall. But when the state’s premier private school athletic associations last month gave its members a second chance in playing amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gerstell and the rest of its traditional competition breathed easier.

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“When we found out that we were playing [in October] it was very exciting for me, because I’ve been playing since I was 3 and I just wanted one final season,” said Kennedy Major, who tallied a goal and an assist in Gerstell’s 3-0 win.

“I’m just very grateful that we got the chance to play again.”

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Gerstell is 2-0-1 to begin its nine-game schedule, one that includes Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland opponents but doesn’t count toward any official IAAM standings (same with the boys sports on the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association side). Both IAAM and MIAA officials agreed to allow their members a chance to play after postponing fall sports indefinitely back in August amid the pandemic.

Gerstell started its hybrid learning plan in early September, and the Falcons began modified practices later in that month. All of that led to the last two weeks, for a chance to get together again on the field. And the Falcons seem appreciative.

Gerstell Academy seniors Kennedy Major and Kate Maerten collide with Catholic sophomore goalie Sydney Leard, left, and junior Olivia Myers in the second half of their game in Finksburg Nov. 9, 2020.
Gerstell Academy seniors Kennedy Major and Kate Maerten collide with Catholic sophomore goalie Sydney Leard, left, and junior Olivia Myers in the second half of their game in Finksburg Nov. 9, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

“Juniors and seniors are together, and sophomores and freshmen are together. So at the beginning, our practices were separated,” said senior Emily Messinese, who added a goal Monday. “We didn’t even know the freshmen at the beginning. When we found out we would be able to all be together, it was really good because then we could really starting building that community.”

Gerstell led 2-0 less than halfway through the first half, but fifth-year coach Giuliano Celenza spent most of those early minutes imploring his players to find their energy and rhythm. Celenza said he didn’t think the Falcons were winning the 50-50 balls and taking control of the midfield, something they improved in the second half.

Rory Smist crashed the goal in the 44th minute and took advantage of a botched save attempt by knocking in Gerstell’s third goal, giving the home team more than enough offensive support.

Catholic got 10 combined saves in its season opener from Sydney Leard (six) and Cristen Roche (four), but the Cubs didn’t muster too many scoring opportunities.

Gerstell’s Faith Bissen started as keeper and collected five saves before being replaced by a gleeful Major, who said she had recently been begging her coaching staff to let her play goalie.

A nice way to cap Senior Day, she said ― the Falcons before the game honored Major, Messinese, Smist, Allie Brendler, Kate Maerten, Abby Morrison, Haley Polk, and Taylor Yetta.

Polk and Morrison helped anchor a Gerstell defense that pitched its second shutout in as many games to start the season. The Falcons visit Annapolis Area Christian on Wednesday in a girls-boys doubleheader starting at 5 p.m.

Celenza praised Gerstell’s administration, led by first-year athletic director Phil Gilotte, for crafting a schedule and giving its athletes a chance to play amid an otherwise chaotic last several months.

“It’s just been an absolute roller coaster for us,” Celenza said. “At one point, when we entered school, we were told there was going to be no season, and just practicing. Then we were told that the league was going to give us an opportunity ... to get these seniors their last hurrah. And they deserve it.”

Goals: G-Kennedy Major, Emily Messinese, Rory Smist

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Assists: G-Major

Saves: C-10 (Sydney Leard 6, Cristen Roche 4); G-5 (Faith Bissen)

Halftime: Gerstell, 2-0

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