After his team’s victory over McDonogh on Wednesday, Mercy girls soccer coach Doug Pryor reminded his team it’s “one game.”
The regular season is a marathon, but the No. 6 Magic’s 1-0 victory over the fifth-ranked Eagles was a huge way to start IAAM A Conference competition.
“It’s good for their confidence, but it’s one game. This league is now even,” said Pryor. “It’s finally where all six teams can win it, and that’s good for the league. Every game’s close, every game’s a battle. At the end of the day, Nov. 5 (championship game) is what everybody’s fighting for.”
Mercy (8-1 overall, 1-0 IAAM A) combined Asia Minor’s early second half tally and tough play on both ends to post a second straight win on McDonogh’s bermudagrass field. In 2019, an underclass-laden Magic squad scratched out a 1-0 victory over the Eagles, who were ranked in the Top 5 nationally.
Wednesday, Mercy leaned on its veteran experience.
“We just need to work 10 times harder than them, and everything will come,” said Magic senior midfielder Sydney Feiler.
The Magic were the aggressors to start the second half and it paid off quickly. Senior defensive forward Bella Wojcik got the ball back into the box where Minor got control. She got around a defender and laced a shot into the corner of the net with 37 minutes, 26 seconds left.
“The whole team worked hard to get the ball forward…we were lucky to get the shot off,” said Minor, a senior forward.
Mercy missed a scoring chance as Carly Hax’s header bounced off the top of the post with 20 minutes to play. It came about a minute after Ella Gembicki got the ball away from Mckenzie Brown, who got a through pass about five feet from the goal.
Feiler successfully defended another Eagle chance off a through pass. Sophomore goalie Soleil Umbarger finished with six saves for Mercy.
Pryor said the Magic was able to manage playing on McDonogh’s field.
“Everything on this field is dangerous, it’s a little bit shorter,” said Pryor. “Where we’ve struggled in the past is heading the ball and McDonogh is great in the air. We headed some balls that we usually don’t and, to be honest, we’d probably lose 3-1.”
McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis thinks Mercy served notice as a legitimate title contender Wednesday.
“They’re going to beat a lot of teams this year with the three forwards that they have. There’s a lot of goals,” said Canellakis. “The rest of the team played pretty hard today and deserved to win.”
Winless after two IAAM A decisions (tied John Carroll last week), Canellakis said the Eagles (3-2-1, 0-1-1), who have no seniors, will need to grow up fast.
“We’ve won the last four championships… Of course, there’s sometimes turnover,” said Canellakis, whose team has won nine of the last 11 IAAM A titles. “Am I happy where we are at, no. Do I think this team has a lot of potential, yes I do.”
Last season, Mercy fell short of championship expectations with Peyton Schenning out for the year with an ankle injury. With Schenning healthy along with a solid veteran cast, the Magic hope they will contend for the IAAM A crown come November.
Yesterday was a promising start.
“We can’t let all the talk after this game get to us because at the end of the day, anybody can win this,” said Feiler. “This isn’t the championship game, it’s one game.”
No. 6 Mercy 1, No. 5 McDonogh 0
Mercy 0 1 - 1
McDonogh 0 0 - 0
Goal: Mercy - Asia Minor
Saves: Mercy - Soleil Umbarger 6; McDonogh - Remi Schaller 4