‘My team and I just work together,’ Gwynedd Mercy’s goalie Lilly Sweeney on winning 3-0 against Northern in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals

Gwynedd Mercy’s goalie loves to talk to her teammates the entire 60 minutes of a field hockey game.

She tells them where to go, what she sees, and if someone’s approaching.

That kind of communication is what helped propel the Monarchs to a 3-0 shutout against Northern Saturday. The Polar Bears end their season in the 2022 PIAA Class 2A state tournament quarterfinals. The Monarchs move forward to play Tuesday against Palmyra in the semifinals.

“Talking helps me stay in the mindset with my team,” senior Lilly Sweeney said. “My team and I just work together. I count on them, and they count on me. And my talking just kind of directs because they are focusing on the ball. I see the entire field, so I’m able to tell them if someone is on their left or their right. Just always able to keep the ball moving and keep the ball up the field.”

Sweeney knows the importance of a strong voice in the backfield. She helped contribute to the team’s championship run last year. The academy finished as runners up to Twin Valley, last year’s state title winner.

Had it not been for Sweeney’s dexterity in her kickers, the scoreboard would have read differently. While it was a shutout win, Northern’s defense was working in alignment with its mids and forwards. And, they were just as competitive as Gwynedd Mercy.

But the Polar Bears couldn’t finish on its opportunities. Simply put, because Sweeney wouldn’t let them.

The contest remained scoreless until the second quarter. Then after the first score, the Monarchs found a way to earn another one in each subsequent quarter.

While the Monarchs had three more penalty corners overall than the Polar Bears, Northern wasn’t without its chances. Northern for stretches of periods held onto the ball longer and was smart with its passing. Gwynedd Mercy, in the first quarter, seemed like it was chasing the ball and trying to keep up with its opponent.

Northern was at the field earlier than Gwynedd Mercy and had a longer warm up, which could have been part of the reason for a slow Monarch start.

“I think usually our team, we’re a little frantic in the beginning,” sophomore Rory Saxon said. “But we usually get heated up pretty quickly.”

Saxon scored the final goal tallied for Gwynedd Mercy. By the time the Monarchs had reached the fourth, it was apparent that Northern was running out of steam. The Monarchs although continued to rip shots. Saxon carried the ball to the baseline. And even though it wasn’t a favorable angle, she took the shot anyway.

“I got the ball, and I just carried it,” Saxon said. “I just shot. I’m really excited. I did a little lift, and my teammate was right on post. I have a lot of trust that if I didn’t get it in, they would finish it. I’m really proud of my team. I think we worked really hard to get where we are and we’re just ready to move on.”

Saxon also earned herself an assist on the second goal, which was a nice back and forth passing sequence between her and Audrey Beck in the third quarter. It was Sydney Mandato’s second quarter goal that brought to life the Monarch’s offense.

Not only was Sweeney’s keeper finesse hard to break, but also Catherine Fitzgerald and Maddie Bogle’s follow throughs. Fitzgerald and Bogle, once they got going, were stubbornly aggressive. They refused to relinquish the ball.


Evelyn Morris, Lilly and Addison Fringer had standout games for the Polar Bears. They were successful at transferring the ball to the squad’s right side. That, in turn, made the Monarchs wake up.

The Polar Bears played all the way to the end. They earned two consecutive corners and a stroke.

With 1:18 remaining in the game, the ball hit a Monarch defender’s foot who was standing near Sweeney. Northern was able to regain the ball, therefore, paused a whistle from the umpire. The umpire waited to see what happened next. Northern lifted a shot on goal, which hit the body of a Gwynedd Mercy player.

A stroke was awarded to the Polar Bears.

Lilly stepped up to take her shot, but Sweeney wanted to leave the field with a shutout.

“I’m so proud of all of them,” Northern head coach Amelia Martire said. “Even though we did not win and lost 3-nothing. If you looked at the score you would think that it wasn’t that competitive of a game. But if you were here, it was competitive. I would not say that it was a one-sided game at all. Their goalie was the best person on the field, and I feel that helped the score.”

The young Polar Bear team is losing four seniors. They had a lot of “big shoes” to fill, Martire said.

“They did a really good job,” she said. “We lost a ton of girls last year….I think the seniors did a good job of leading. I think coming into this season, we didn’t know what to expect. They were thinking it was going to be a rebuilding year. Last year, I feel like, people had us on their radar because we had all those seniors and we had Brynn Crouse. Coming into this year, nobody really had us on the radar. I think that nobody, like, in the field hockey world, expected us to go as far as we did. Northern field hockey only has made it to states four times and they’ve only made it this far – this is the second time.”

Last season was the first time the Monarchs made it as far as they did, the team’s head coach Katie Ronan said.

“I think we definitely started a little more timid just because we didn’t know what to expect,” Ronan said. “So that’s something we’re going to have to work around because we need to go from the get-go. It’s always tough coming off a bus ride, early morning for these girls. Getting them to wake up a little bit. So that will be our mission going forward, just to have them awake, ready to go from that first whistle.”

She continued: “And, to keep playing our game. That’s our number one thing we need to do. We really need to keep bringing up the intensity. We put more force on them in that third quarter. And that really helped us. I told the girls to not be afraid to go for it. You could see Northern started to drop back a little bit. We were able to capitalize on that.”

Monarchs: 3

  • Goals – Mandato (1), Beck (1), Saxon (1)
  • Assists – Saxon
  • Penalty Corners – 9

Polar Bears: 0

  • Goals – 0
  • Assists – 0
  • Penalty Corners – 6
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