By Alex McGinley
VILLANOVA, PA-- Episcopal Academy used a strong defensive performance to defeat Academy of Notre Dame 6-1 Thursday afternoon at Burns Field. With the win, the Churchwomen remain undefeated in Inter-Ac play with a 4-0 record, 11-1 overall. The Fighting Irish received their first conference loss after winning their first three games.
The Churchwomen dominated from the start and kept its offensive momentum going throughout the contest. Senior midfielder Ashley Sessa (North Carolina commit) put the Churchwomen on the board off a deflection with 7:04 left in the first quarter. Sessa finished the game with one goal and four assists.
Senior center and Duke University commit Macy Szukics extended the Churchwomen’s lead by two on a goal with 7:21 remaining in the second quarter. Szukics finished the game with a hat trick, scoring one goal each in the third and fourth quarters.
“I think our offense did an amazing job attacking, especially our four-line,” said Szukics. “We put really high pressure on the ball and forced them to pass out wide so our mids could step up and capitalize on attacking opportunities.”
Senior midfielders Olivia Corrato (Columbia) and Mia Garber (Boston College) also contributed to the Churchwomen’s offensive onslaught, each scoring in the second half.
Episcopal Academy head coach Stephanie Fee noted that her players found different ways to score throughout the game, which was one of the reasons they were successful against Notre Dame.
EA senior midfielder Ashley Sessa sets the tone for the Churchwomen by scoring the first goal. (photo by James Quinn)
“We always encourage athletes on the ball to take on the one vs. one, give the pass right away or three-touch hockey, which adds a lot of fast pace,” said Coach Fee. “But not only that, players working off the ball to get tips off the far post is just sheer effort and selflessness and that’s what I love when you see those type of goals. The ones from the top of the circle are great, but the ones that are off of rebounds and showing the work and far posts are always great as well.”
Not only did the Churchwomen dominate the offensive side of the ball, but they also controlled the game defensively. The Churchwomen were pitching a shutout until Notre Dame senior forward Emma Steele scored with 10 seconds left in the game. In total, Episcopal Academy senior goalie Gianna Ciluffo, also a Columbia University commit, made eight saves.
“I think the defense also did an amazing job,” said Szukics. “They made really, really good outlets and step-ups to prevent scoring until the last second, but I think we all worked really well as a team.”
Even though this was a tough loss, senior defender Evelyn O’Neill believes that this game showed her team what it needs to improve upon for the rest of the season.
“Just working on tactical stuff, kind of showing where our weaknesses are and improving upon that for the next time we match up and for the rest of the Inter-Ac leading into PAISAA’s,” said O’Neill. “I think it just gave us a good glimpse of our weaknesses and also some of our strengths that we just need to improve upon and keep working on.”
Sophomore goalie Mia McClosky ended the game with 13 saves against the Churchwomen.
Episcopal Academy will look to stay undefeated in Inter-Ac play when it takes on the Agnes Irwin School at home on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. Notre Dame will look to rebound from its first conference loss when it takes on Springside Chestnut Hill Academy on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.