By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The Our Lady of Mercy Academy girls soccer team headed into Wednesday afternoon’s showdown with host Absegami riding a seven-game winning streak, but the Villagers hadn’t really been tested much during that stretch. Their closest game was a 4-2 win over Schalick, and OLMA had outscored its opponents 43-11 during the streak.
They had to work hard against the Braves, however, to run that streak to eight straight and secure their 12th victory of the season.
Junior midfielder Lauren Terista converted a penalty kick in the 51st minute, and that was all the scoring either team could come up with as the Villagers escaped with a 1-0 victory. OLMA had plenty of chances but couldn’t convert on any of them, partly due to some solid defense by Absegami (6-7, 5-6 Cape-Atlantic League National) and goalie Averie Wiedman, who made 12 saves, and party due to just missing open shots and some plain old bad luck.
In the 15th minute, OLMA (12-2, 10-1 CAL National) had a direct kick from just outside the 18-yard-line box but the shot sailed high, and with 15 minutes left in the first half junior midfielder Addison Mello drilled a shot from 25 yards out that rang off the crossbar.
“Today, we were dealing with a lot of injuries. We had to work with what we had, but we’re very strong in the middle and we pass it around to everybody to try to get it to the outside and finish,” said OLMA senior captain Sophia Curcuru.
Absegami’s approach was to sit back on defense to try to contain players like Mello, Terista and Bella Losada, then try to strike on counterattacks. The plan was working, as the Braves made several runs in each half, but like OLMA, just couldn’t find a way to finish around the net.
The PK came as a result of some heavy pressure by OLMA that led to an Absegami handball inside the box. Terista calmly stepped up and drilled the shot into the lower left corner past a diving Wiedman to put the Villagers up, 1-0.
“I was more focused on getting back. Once we went up by one, it was about getting back,” Terista said. “Big credit to our two center backs who played a tremendous game. Addy Mello is one of our best players. She has a great game every game and she barely gets any credit for it. And Bella Losada, she played a great game, too.”
Absegami’s best chance to tie the game came in the 66th minute but the Braves’ shot hit the crossbar.
OLMA has a couple more regular season games to go but now turns its attention to the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament, which will feature some tough competition with the likes of Ocean City, Lower Cape May and potentially Egg Harbor Township, Holy Spirit and Mainland. Last year, OLMA lost 2-1 to Middle Township in the opening round of the CAL Tournament, and fell 6-1 to Trinity Hall in the sectional quarterfinals.
“This win puts us in a really good spot for the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament and the state playoffs and gives us confidence,” Curcuru said. “This season has been going really well for us. I don’t think we’ve ever had this long of a winning streak, so everybody is excited to be going into the postseason with this many wins.”
“I think we’re in a good spot. We were a little too relaxed today and I think we need to be more intense, and that starts at practice. We have to be more intense in practice and be a little harder on each other, and if we do that we’ll be where we want to be,” Terista said. “(Going on a winning streak) gives us some confidence to know that we are better than a lot of teams. OLMA has never really been better than teams, so now we know we can have more confidence going up against better teams. We just need to finish our opportunities. We had so many opportunities on net that we didn’t finish, and that all starts in practice, and even practicing on our own.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullsays