BY: MARC NARDUCCI
PHILADELPHIA--Archbishop Ryan senior Kate Brace first got her chance at extensive varsity action when as a freshman, she was inserted into the lineup during the third game of the season at left back following an injury to one of her teammates.
The Ragdolls haven’t been able to get her out of the lineup ever since.
In her first three seasons Brace was a fixture at left back, but this year, coach Scarlett Walsh has her playing sweeper.
And Brace looks awfully comfortable in her new position, quarterbacking the defense and working well in tandem with stopper Maddie Camillo.
Both were among several impressive players in Ryan’s opening Catholic League game, a 5-0 home win over Cardinal O’Hara on Monday.
Ryan scored four first half goals and was never threatened. While the offense applied plenty of pressure, the defense, led by Brace was air-tight.
A left footed kicker, she not only showed great anticipation, but displayed the ability to accurately feed her teammates with long passes.
Going from playing in the outside to moving into the middle may not seem like a big adjustment, but the game is entirely different. A sweeper or center back has to see the game differently. The good ones help generate the offense from the back, something that Brace looked very comfortably doing.
Archbishop Ryan senior Kate Brace vs. Cardinal O' Hara in Monday's Season Opener (photo/Kathy Leister for PSD)
“I am learning something new every day,” Brace said afterwards. “I am adjusting to it because I’m left-footed and I’m so used to the left side, but I really like playing in the center.”
She has great vision, able to see the entire field and direct traffic.
Against O’Hara, Archbishop Ryan scored an early goal when junior Chelsea Ritter sent sophomore Gianna Rivera on goal.
Rivera, with excellent speed, doesn’t need much room and she was off to the races, scoring on a breakaway.
Ritter gives Ryan strength in the midfield, She has the willingness to take on defenders and beat them one-on-one and her passing accuracy from great distance is impressive.
Ryan would also get first half goals from Rebecca Dalton, and two from Sierra DiDonato.
Anna Lombardi would score a goal in the second half.
DiDonato is a player who competes with a high motor. While she has good finishing skills, the best part of her game is that she never lets up, always going full force, and often winning the 50-50 balls that are so crucial to any offense.
One thing that was impressive was the grit that O’Hara showed, Being down 4-0 at the half, the Lions kept battling, never stopped hustling. Coach Dave Cornish said that he found out during the day on Monday that he would be missing a few starters, which obviously didn’t help, but the players who showed up came to compete. It’s just that their opponent was extremely skilled.
Among those players for Cardinal O’Hara who competed at a high level was sophomore Greta Miller, who made a few impressive runs and never stopped battling for the ball.
“It is definitely a positive that our players never gave up,” Cornish said. “They always fight for each other. They kept going, they worked hard and they never gave up.”
PCL games are scheduled for each Monday and Thursday and each week we will recap the action.
Here were the other opening games from Monday 9/13.
Cardinal O'Hara Sophomore Greta Miller in season opener vs. Ryan. (photo/Kathy Leister for PSD).
Lansdale Catholic 1, Conwell Egan 0
After a scoreless first half, Lansdale Catholic’s Nicole Mezzatesta scored the lone goal in the 55th minute. Mezzatesta’s shot from approximately 20 yards out was the difference maker. Cassidy Saulino recorded three saves to earn the shutout. Early in the game, Conwell Egan had its best scoring chance. “Around the five minute mark of the game, the ball was lost inside the goal box, with one of the Lansdale Catholic players clearing it off the goal line,” Conwell Egan coach Andy Adamiec said.
Archbishop Carroll 5, Little Flower 4
In a game where the offenses were sizzling, Carroll showed plenty of firepower. Olivia Stout and Amanda Armstrong each and two goals and Ella Wright provided a goal and three assists. The winners needed all that offense because Little Flower had Bella Torres scoring twice while Rylee Sundermeier and Hayden Johnson added a goal each.
“I am proud of the girls for their effort and resilience to compete,” Carroll coach Thomas Quintois said. “There are certainly areas we can and look forward to improving upon. I give a ton of credit and much respect to Little Flower as they played a great game".
Archbishop Wood 3, St. Hubert’s 1
An Archbishop Wood team that has major designs on competing for the PCL title, received two goals from Megan Hickey and another from Meghan Matthews.
“In the second half we had a bunch of opportunities and we couldn’t put the ball in the net,” said Wood coach Tom DeGeorge.
It goes to show the expectation that the Vikings have. It’s common early in the season not to cash in on all scoring chances but a Wood team with eight returning starters appears primed to hit the back of the net with even more frequency.
Around the league Thursday 9/16.
Little Flower 8, Bonner-Prendie 0
After scoring four goals and losing in its opener to Archbishop Carroll, 5-4, Little Flower doubled the total in earning its first Catholic League win, defeating Bonner-Prendie, 8-0.
Oliva Bradley led the scoring onslaught with a hat trick. Hayden Johnson scored twice and the other goal scorers were Rylee Sundermeier, Bella Torres and Rory Bagnell.
Little Flower will host Archbishop Wood on Monday in a game that shouldn’t lack scoring firepower.
Archbishop Wood 5, Cardinal O’Hara 0
Speaking of Archbishop Wood, the winning Vikings opened the scoring with a goal by Megan Hickey, her third in the first two PCL games. Emily Beck got the assist on the first goal.
There were no assists needed on both of Ava DeGeorge’s goals, which each came on set pieces.
Wood would add goals by Meghan Matthews and Avery Lubbe, with Amanda Morelli getting both assists.
Vikings' keeper Natalie Gablein made six saves, while Nat Capaccio was busy for O’Hara with 12 saves and Sanaa Ballenger came in and made three saves.
A major game note this week is Thursday when Wood visits Archbishop Ryan at 7.
Lansdale Catholic 3, Archbishop Carroll 3
Archbishop Carroll, which opened with a wild 5-4 win over Little Flower, overcame a 3-1 deficit to earn the tie with visiting Lansdale Catholic.
Molly Friel scored twice for Carroll while Olivia Stout had the other goal. Ella Wright, Sophia Verlinghieri and Emma Tolaga contributed assists.
“I am very proud of our girls’ character and willingness to battle a very tough opponent,” Carroll coach Tom Quintois said.
Emma Tolago and Bridget Robinson split the game in goal for Carroll. Both had six saves.
Lansdale Catholic’s goal scorers were Ava Mercier, Megan Steinbach and Casey Sabolsky.
“Nicole Mezzatesta is our work horse in the midfield and had a great game alongside Ava Mercier,” Lansdale Catholic coach Bree Benedict said.
The Crusaders played without standout forward Emily Simpson, who suffered a knee injury and is sidelined indefinitely. Lansdale Catholic played with just 15 players, so surviving 100 minutes of soccer was no small feat.
“It was a physical game that the refs allowed both teams to just play through,” Benedict said. “The surface contributed to the physicality and generated a lot of 50-50 balls. We certainly had a lot of chances that came up short in the end. Credit to Carroll for coming back and getting two quick goals. We will need to be tougher on the outsides moving forward and clinical in front of the goal.”