ST. MARYS — The St. Marys girls soccer team celebrated Senior Day in style Friday afternoon, besting cross-town rival Elk County Catholic, 4-1.
The Lady Dutch honored its six seniors — Maria Allegretto (manager), Lauren Eckert, Chloe Mattivi, Kaylee Muccio, Courteney Pistner and Britney Shaw — at halftime, and that group played a big role in the victory.
However, it was a a pair of juniors — Kyla Johnson and Carlee Ginther — who scored four minutes apart in the first half to put the Lady Dutch up 2-0.
Elk County (4-10) got a goal back before the end of the half when Rylie Belsole scored on what proved to be one of two shots the Lady Crusaders produced on the day But, an own goal by the Lady Crusaders early in the second half aided in the St. Marys victory.
Eckert then punctuated the Senior Day victory when she found the back of then with 27:13 remaining. The win was the second in a row for the Lady Dutch (16-1) since suffering its first loss to DuBois. 3-2, last Saturday.
“ECC was good competition again, just like the last time we played them. They came hard and played hard,” said first-year St. Marys coach Sam Zimmerman, who is an ECC graduate. “It’s still a little weird for me, but I think it was little extra special for the girls to beat ECC on Senior Day.
“It is a cross-town rivalry, and these games are about the town and showcasing the talent we both have. Obviously, we have different playoffs, so I wish them the best of luck in postseason.
“The seniors all played awesome on the field today. They are a great group and very coachable girls and very talented as well. They have done an awesome job sharing tips and advice with the underclassmen. Hopefully, we have them for a long time in the postseason, because I’m definitely going to miss them. I was happy to get a win today and get the momentum rolling for this postseason.
“The DuBois game was a learning opportunity for us, and hopefully we take this momentum and energy from Senior Night and move forward with it towards the postseason.”
The first 20 minutes was closely contested and largely played in the midfield as shots came at a premium for both sides.
St. Marys had the first scoring chance in the 13th minute but Ginther’s shot hit the side of the net. Teammate Isabelle Caskey had a good look of her own in the 17th minute but her shot from the right side of the box sailed wide.
Eckert got her first look less a minute later as she made a strong run into the ECC box, then cutback against a Lady Crusader defender and fired a shot. However, it sailed just over the crossbar.
Elk County recorded its first shot in the 23rd minute, but Shaw easily stopped the lang-range attempt from well outside the box.
St. Marys struck for the first time less than a minute later off a corner kick play.
Johnson took that corner into the box, which an ECC defender cleared back out towards the corner where Johnson was joining the play. She corralled the ball and fired a shot near the end line that found its way into the far, top corner of the net to put the Lady Dutch up 1-0 with 16:48 left in the first half.
St. Marys had a chance to go up 2-0 just 43 seconds later, but Katie Garverick’s direct kick from outside the box was stopped by ECC keeper Allison Geci.
The Lady Dutch didn’t miss on their next opportunity, as Ginther took a pass on the run and dribbled in on Geci before blasting a shot past the Lady Crusader keeper to make it 2-0 with 12:37 remaining in the half.
The Lady Crusaders didn’t hang their heads though, and cut that deficit in half before the break. Julia Toncich set up the score when she slipped a pass to Rylie Belsole on the right side of the box before Belsole fired a shot into the net to pull ECC within one at 2-1 with 6:07 left on the clock.
Geci made one final save in the half, as she turned away a shot by Muccio in the 38th minute to keep it a 2-1 game at the break.
St. Marys came out strong to start the second half and put the pressure on Geci, who stopped as shot by Ginther in the 43rd minute.
Just over four minutes later, St. Marys earned a corner kick that Johnson once again took. She placed the corner towards the middle of the box, and disaster struck ECC as a defender rose up to try to head it out of harms away.
Instead, that header fooled Geci as it floated into the far right corner of the net to give St. Marys a 3-1 advantage.
Eckert made it 4-1 just under six minutes later when she split a pair of defenders to run on to a through ball before blasting a shot past Geci.
St. Marys controlled the game from there over the final 27 minutes and held ECC without a shot in the second half. Shaw needed to make just the one save in getting the win on her Senior Day.
The Lady Dutch had a trio of chances to add to their lead in that closing stretch. Pistner had a pair of shots stopped by Geci, while Eckert nearly netted her second in the 70th minute.
Eckert made a strong run in the box and chipped the ball past Geci. However, she couldn’t get a lot of her shot after that, and as it rolled slows towards the net, ECC defender Lani Cerroni stopped it with her foot right at the right post.
“We just didn’t create many (scoring) opportunities today, and I attribute that to us not hustling after the ball at times and giving too much space,” said ECC coach Ken Vogt. “But, late in games — we only have 14 girls — we’re tired. We can compete, but when the other team has 25 girls and can sub out it’s tough.
“We played well first 20 minutes, but after that I think we get mentally tired too. We know we have a lack of players, but I tell them all the time, your mind is going to get tired before your body does. Your body can handle it if your mind is in it. They really haven’t haven’t bought into that yet, and hopefully we can turn things around (this week). We have three games to finish up, then we’ll see if we enter the playoffs or not.”
St. Marys closes out the regular season Wednesday at home against Brookville, while ECC travels to Redbank Valley on Monday.