Field Hockey: Times are a changin’ at Garnet Valley

RIDLEY TWP.   – After five games this season, Garnet Valley held a modest 3-2-0 record, including an 0-1-0 mark in Central League play.

Fast forward seven games later, and that record looks infinitely better after the Jaguars racked up their seventh consecutive win in a surprising 7-0 blowout of Ridley. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what sparked the change, if GV changed anything up, or if the Jaguars just progressively got better. One thing that’s certain, though, is that they’ve improved drastically since they started their Central League slate with a 2-0 loss to Strath Haven.

Sure, there’s been an explosive offense that’s hard to slow down. During its streak, GV has averaged 4.57 goals per game. The Jaguars have scored less than three goals once in that span, a 2-0 whitewashing of West Chester East, and Katie Keyser has been on fire with 11 goals and five assists. But the more impressive part, though, has been a defensive turnaround that rarely yields any opportunities for the opposition to score. The Jaguars have only allowed more than one goal in one of those seven games, a 5-3 fast-paced shootout with Radnor, and they were finally be able to record their first and second shutouts of the year against W.C. East and Ridley. That’s a paltry one goal per game average, a number that if sustained, will inevitably help GV down the stretch.

“It’s just a lot of organization and talking on the field,” defender Giulz Antignani said. “It’s knowing that we’re all there for each other this year. We all were reaching for the goal of being undefeated in the Central League (since the Haven loss) and we’re just taking it one step at a time.”

One game that looms large for Garnet Valley is an upcoming game with Conestoga. Seems like the Pioneers are a red-letter game for pretty much everyone. That’s part of the territory of being the defending league champions, but it’s also because Conestoga is one of three teams with only one Central League loss. (That statement might not hold water after a battle with Haverford in less than an hour) After Strath Haven, which has a goose egg in the loss column, the Pioneers, Fords and Jaguars all have one league loss.

“(Last year’s loss) left a sour taste in my mouth,” Antigani said. “We lost in overtime.”

Motivation aside, GV has the talent to give the Pioneers a game next week, and if someone can knock off Strath Haven , the Jaguars would figure to be the beneficiary of at least one tiebreaker. Logic seems to indicate that four Central League teams will get the nod for the District One tournament, especially with the parity, but that’s not a certainty.

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All of the Inter-Ac attention seems to surround Episcopal Academy and Notre Dame, the top two teams in the Super 7, but Agnes Irwin has been turning in an impressive season. The Owls lost to the Irish, 5-2, but other than that, they’ve acquitted themselves well enough to hold a 6-2-0 record, including a 4-1-0 mark in league play. A big reason has been the impressive play of sophomore Sophia Tornetta. The younger Tornetta – older sister Olivia also ranks among AIS’ scoring leaders – has goals in four straight games and leads the Owls with 10 markers. She garnered rave reviews from a few coaches who have seen her play and figures to play a prominent role if the Owls are to challenge the Churchmen and Irish for Inter-Ac supremacy.

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How about the play of Sacred Heart goalie Kate Reilly? The Lions are in a bit of a funk with a 2-3-0 record in their past five games, but Reilly hasn’t been the problem. She hasn’t given up more than two goals in any of those games, and she stopped 18, 15, and 13 shots in those losses. SH gave Haverford all it could handle in a 2-1 loss, proving that the smallest school in Delco can hold its own with the Central League blue bloods. Reilly has been excellent all year to the tune of 119 saves and an 86.5 percent save percentage, to go with four shutouts.

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Upper Darby has struggled to score – a lot – but the Royals finally got off the schneid recently with a 5-1 thumping of Chichester. That erased a streak of four straight shutouts, thanks in no small part to two goals from Bridget Johnson, and one each from Jake Landmesser, Kadidia Toure and Katie Jordan. It’s been a tough offensive year for the Royals, who only have 21 goals all year, but it’s nice to see a team that has struggled like that finally get on the right side of the scoreboard.

- MATT CHANDIK

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