IMMACULATA, PA –
If someone happened to miss the opening three minutes of the PAISAA girls’ soccer championship Thursday night at Immaculata University between Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Episcopal Academy, they missed the sole goal of the contest.
Normally it takes players a few moments to adjust, especially during a championship game. Luckily for Springside Chestnut Hill, sophomore Maddie Niebish was quick to spring into action.
“I remember Emily McNesby crossing the ball in, having [Episcopal’s] goalie make a save, but their goalie deflected the ball and I just kept running to the net. It was more Emily’s work, and I just finished off on it,” said a humble Niebish.
This year the Blue Devils have been “On A Mission” to make it to the PAISAA Championship. Needless to say, that journey is now complete.
“‘On A Mission,’ it’s one of the things that we have been saying this year. We knew that we had to work very hard to get to where we are right now. So, that was our goal to take it one game at a time,” said Springside Chestnut Hill senior co-captain and Darthmouth commit, Grace Rorke.
This 1-0 victory marked the Blue Devil’s first ever PAISAA state title. For Springside Chestnut Hill senior captain, Emily McNesby, this win was a long time coming.
“It’s unreal,” said McNesby, who will be continuing her soccer career at the University of Maryland. “We have been working so hard all of our four years of high school to get to this (the PAISAA championship). This was the goal and we achieved it and it feels amazing.”
During the second half of the game, midfielders from both squads saw majority of the action. Each team was also awarded a number of corners in which neither the Churchwomen nor the Blue Devils could capitalize.
Springside Chesnut Hill goalies Julia Wilbekaitis and Sena Houessou-Adin split time in net for the Blue Devils. Wilbekaitis and Houessou-Adin shed light on their game preparation and what went through their minds during this defense dominated game.
“At practice we watched film, which really helped us a lot as goal keepers because we saw what mistakes we made and what we needed to do better,” said Springside Chesnut Hill freshman, Wilbekaitis. “When it’s a 1-0 game and Sena comes out and I go in, I always try to keep my mind positive. That way I know I can do a good job and play my best.”
“It’s our third time playing them [EA] and we already kind of knew what to expect. So, we just wanted to have a plan that we could breakdown their offensive players that have been scoring during the past two times that we played them,” said Springside Chestnut Hill junior, Houessou-Adin. “Usually when we score first I’m less stressed out. It’s not that I will just give up, but it relieves stress from me in goal.”
During the regular season, Springside Chestnut Hill lost twice to Episcopal Academy. While this was not the post-season outcome Episcopal had hoped for, the Churchwomen ended the 2017 season as outright Inter-Ac girls’ soccer champions.
With a team motto of "one team, one goal" Episcopal Academy secured the Inter-Ac title with a 11-2 league record.
"It was a great season," said EA head coach Andy Fraggos. " I am so proud of this team. Our seniors this year, we have seven seniors, have been role models for our underclassmen not only on the field or at practice, but in the classroom as well. They are all very well rounded and are a great example to our underclassmen. I am very proud of them."
"Next year we have a lot of returning talent. Our hopes are pretty high for next year and we are hoping for good things," said Fraggos.
As one season ends, preparation for the next season already begins. Seniors from both schools offered their wisdom to their returning underclassmen in order to continue their legacies of success next season. (See videos below for their responses).
2017 All-Inter-Ac Girls Soccer League Team Honorees
Olivia Dirks -- Episcopal Academy
Hannah Moriarty -- Episcopal Academy
Anna Salvucci -- Episcopal Academy
Raina Kuzemka -- Episcopal Academy
Carly Macintosh -- Baldwin
Gia Vicari -- Baldwin
Emily McNesby -- SCH (MVP)
Grace Rorke -- SCH
Giovanna DeMarco -- Penn Charter
Kaitlyn Haughey -- Penn Charter
Ally Clark -- Germantown Academy
Laila Payton -- Episcopal Academy
Natalie Agro -- Baldwin
Celia Page -- Baldwin
Maddie Niebish -- SCH
Lucy Lamb -- SCH
Emma Maley -- Penn Charter
India Barnes -- Penn Charter
Riley Axenroth -- Germantown Academy
Maria Pansini -- Agnes Irwin
Emma Kichula -- Notre Dame
Mackenzie Pluck -- Germantown Academy