First-team All-County midfielder Jenny Giampalmo could only watch from the sidelines last year as Glenelg field hockey squandered its county title chances over the final two days of the regular season.
There was the 1-0 loss to Marriotts Ridge on Oct. 17, then a one-goal overtime defeat against River Hill the next afternoon, which prevented the Gladiators from winning their 10th consecutive league crown. Giampalmo, a major contributor when healthy, missed both games with a concussion.
Luckily for Glenelg, Giampalmo was cleared to play before the start of the playoffs, and she immediately re-integrated herself as the team’s inserter on corners and one of its best facilitators. With her in the lineup, the Gladiators rattled off postseason wins over the Mustangs and Hawks. Then came back-to-back shutouts to secure the 2A state championship.
Giampalmo’s role further expanded before this season, as Nicole Trunzo named her a senior captain, but her skillset remains largely the same. And in a 2-0 win over River Hill on Tuesday afternoon, these abilities were on full display. Giampalmo assisted on both goals — one in the first half and the other late in the second period — as the Gladiators beat a formidable county opponent to improve to 2-0 in league play.
“She’s a great leader, and just her overall spacial awareness and her off-ball play on the field is so awesome,” Trunzo said. “She’s not always in the play like with the ball, but she can see where she needs to be for support.”
With about 14 minutes left in the first half, Giampalmo decided she needed to be near the right post, so that’s exactly where she settled after inserting the ball to senior Sarah Cipolla at the top of the circle on the right side.
With no one covering Giampalmo, Cipolla quickly passed back to Giampalmo for a point-blank shot that River Hill goalkeeper Caroline Kral easily saved. But then the ball bounced back to Giampalmo, who had the awareness to send the ball to the other post. With Kral out of position, senior forward Mallory Jubb corralled the cross and finished, giving Glenelg a 1-0 advantage.
“With the goalie, right along the goalie is going to be really crowded,” Giampalmo said. “So, when we’re crossing it in, it’s good to go for the far post. Or if you’re low, crossing it to the top of the circle.
“We’ve been working on that in practice, like when we get the ball in and it’s too crowded, get the ball out and cross to the open space. Our forwards did a good job tipping it in.”
It was only a matter of time before a Glenelg player found the back of the cage before intermission. The Gladiators constantly held possession, controlled the pace and dominated in terms of corners and shots.
And they showed no signs of letting up after the break.
Kral, who made five first-half saves, had to make two more difficult ones in the opening minutes of the final frame and several more throughout the period. River Hill, meanwhile, only forced goalkeeper Rachel Barker to make two saves, though one was a split save on a liner from junior midfielder Quinn Kindbom. If not for Barker’s flexibility, Kindbom would have netted the equalizer with about 20 minutes to play.
Despite producing little offense, River Hill coach Shelly Chamness said the team’s attack Tuesday was an improvement from its first few games.
“We’re just fixing things one at a time,” Chamness said. “We had a couple things to fix, we fixed those, and now we have a couple more things, so we’re getting there.”
As for Glenelg, its issue is more about finishing scoring chances rather than creating them. Giampalmo said that facet of the game is something the Gladiators have struggled with in the past but can improve with shot selection and placement. Instead of shooting directly at the goalkeeper, she suggested making quick, smart passes to better their shooting angles. At practice, Trunzo said she’s open to putting extra defenders or less attackers on the field to make scoring more difficult.
The Gladiators could also learn from the sequence that resulted in their game-clinching goal late in the second half. Giampalmo started with possession on the right side but quickly sent a pass to senior forward Tess Muneses, who corralled the ball in a tight space. Then, with two defenders and the goalkeeper converging, Muneses flicked a nifty shot that beat Kral to the near post.
It’s the type of goals Glenelg will look to score more of its offense continues to mesh.
“This is our second game of the season, and obviously we’re a little sloppy, but I think we’re playing pretty well,” Giampalmo said. “We have a lot to prove this season, and I think we have a pretty good shot at making a good run in playoffs.”
Glenelg (2-0 county, 2-0) — 2, River Hill (0-1, 1-3) — 0
Goals: G — Mallory Jubb, Tess Muneses.
Assists: G — Jenny Giampalmo 2.
Saves: G — Rachel Barker 2; RH — Caroline Kral 11.