With the start of league play one week away, the senior-laden Mercy girls soccer team is putting in the final touches before making its run at the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title.
Tuesday at Perry Hall, the No. 5 Magic enjoyed quality touches.
Leading by a goal at the half, the visitors exploded with four goals in the second 40 minutes to close out a comfortable 6-1 win over the No. 11 Gators. Six players scored in the win with senior standout Payton Schenning leading the way with one goal and one assist.
Mercy won its third straight to improve to 6-1 on the season, while Perry Hall, which is 2-0 in Baltimore County league play, falls to 3-3 on the season.
After the Gators scored a potential momentum-shifting goal in the final minute of the first half to cut the lead to 2-1, the Magic took back hold of the game when Schenning scored off a heavy shot from 25 yards with five minutes gone by in the second half. Marena Quattrocche made it 4-1 midway through the half.
“At practice, we worked really hard as a team and came out and finished our chances, so it was a great game,” said Schenning.
“I feel like we’re really playing great. We’re playing well out of the back, connecting passes and combining together. Scoring goals and getting to run to the corner flag [to celebrate] is a great feeling.”
For most of the game, the Magic were quicker to the ball, connected their passes and eventually the goals poured in. In the 18th minute, Maddie Brock found space on the right side, took a pass from Schennng and neatly placed a shot to the lower left corner from 16 yards for a 1-0 advantage.
After Asia Minor made it 2-0 off a feed from Carly Hax with 7:15 left in the first half, the Gators got some good fortune when Reese Pinnell chipped in a ball from 30 yards to cut the lead to one just 15 seconds before intermission.
The Magic regrouped and with Perry Hall starting goalkeeper Serenity Jankowiak forced to leave the game with a minor injury, the visitors were able to put away more chances in the second half.
Mercy will host Sparrows Point at 6 p.m. Thursday before opening league play at defending IAAM A Conference champion McDonogh next Wednesday at 4 p.m.
“It’s nice getting a good result, to score goals — we’ve been on the opposite side of that plenty of times. It’s good for their confidence,” said Mercy coach Doug Pryor. “We got one more out-of-league game and then we start league play with McDonogh next week and it gets real. It’s good for their confidence, I’m happy they’re enjoying themselves. They were good today — that’s the team they can be.”
Perry Hall coach Matt Smoot welcomes the quality competition to prepare for their league and state playoff aspirations. The Gators, who also were without senior captain Madalyn Hall for much of the game with another nagging injury, had stretches of working the ball around like they want. They simply couldn’t keep pace with the Magic for most of the game.
“Our No. 1 nonnegotiable today was that the effort can’t stop. We can’t allow adversity to let our effort drop, frustration set in,” Smoot said. “I think that was the most adversity we faced this season and while we weren’t happy with our play, the effort level didn’t drop. We kept playing hard and didn’t give up.”
He’s banking on the game proving a valuable lesson for the Gators, who must continue with the strong effort while increasing their speed of play. They return to league play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against Hereford.
Using the strong effort with faster play is a must.
“Teams that are more aggressive in possession of the ball — teams that have 11 quality players on the field that can receive a pass and not take a touch that loses the ball — we’re going to have to match that,” he said. “And if we don’t match that and exceed that, we’re not going to win those games. So I think that was the biggest difference today: You had a team of Mercy players that were that much more turned on, that much more intense to receive the ball, build the ball with speed and we didn’t match that.”
Goals: M — Brock, Gembicki, Minor, Schenning, Qauttrocche, Wilson; PH — Pinnell
Assists: M — Schenning, Hax
Saves: M — Umbarger 2; PH — Jankowiak 4, Thurman 2
Half: 2-1, M