Bambies drop pair of tough Catholic League losses

Be­cause of in­jur­ies, St. Hubert has turned to fresh­man goalie Emily Jef­frey. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO


Once upon a time, long be­fore his ten­ure as the St. Hubert soc­cer coach began, Mick Mc­Groarty was a goalie. Now ap­proach­ing his 400th ca­reer coach­ing vic­tory, the long­time Bam­bies boss is dig­ging in­to his vault of ex­per­i­ence in hopes of help­ing along his fresh­man goal­tender.

Last sea­son, the Bam­bies fell in the Cath­ol­ic League quarterfi­nals to Arch­bish­op Ry­an and then had to en­dure the un­cer­tainty about wheth­er the school would close. When the Arch­diocese gran­ted St. Hubert a re­prieve, the soc­cer team im­me­di­ately began look­ing for­ward to the 2012 sea­son. With 11 seni­ors on the roster, there was a lot to look for­ward to.

Then, the in­jury bug bit hard, leav­ing the Bam­bies with a breadth of ex­per­i­ence every­where but in goal, as 5-foot-2 fresh­man Emily Jef­frey was the team’s only avail­able op­tion in net.

So far, the res­ults have been mixed as St. Hubert deals with a still-learn­ing keep­er while try­ing to get as healthy as pos­sible for a play­off run. Stand­ing at 3-4 after Monday’s 2-0 loss to Arch­bish­op Ry­an, there have been plenty of obstacles thus far; but if there’s one thing the St. Hubert com­munity knows, it’s over­com­ing un­ex­pec­ted bumps in the road.

“For Emily, it’s on-the-job train­ing,” Mc­Groarty said. “I’ve told her if she doesn’t learn a lot this sea­son, then shame on her. This is a sea­son where she’s really go­ing to be tested. We’ve been try­ing to teach her how to smoth­er the ball and pos­sess it, when pos­sible. She’s got to learn that, and we’re go­ing to keep drilling it in­to her as the sea­son con­tin­ues.”

Ad­ded Arch­bish­op Ry­an head coach Ry­an Haney on Monday: “She shouldn’t be un­der­es­tim­ated be­cause of her lack of size. She’s very act­ive and quick mov­ing from post to post. She did well and saved the ones she should have saved. She didn’t give us too much to take ad­vant­age of.”

Mc­Groarty was speak­ing after last Thursday’s 2-1 home loss to Arch­bish­op Wood, the reign­ing league cham­pi­on and pre­sumptive 2012 fron­trun­ners after win­ning six of sev­en to open the sea­son. After a back-and-forth first half that res­ul­ted in zero goals, the Bam­bies struck first less than five minutes in­to the second half, when ju­ni­or mid­field­er Eliza­beth “Biff” Jones de­pos­ited a loose ball in front of the Wood goalie in­to the net.

From there, Wood’s ur­gency picked up, and the Vik­ings’ Jess Scarpello showed why the Cath­ol­ic League title will con­tin­ue to go through her school. First, Scarpello blas­ted a beau­ti­ful shot from 25 yards out over Jef­frey’s head to tie the score. Then, Wood went ahead to stay off a dir­ect kick from Kath­er­ine Hen­nes­sey. Hen­nes­sey per­fectly led Scarpello to the goal, and she did the rest, de­pos­it­ing the ball in­to the bot­tom left corner of the net.

For his part, Mc­Groarty be­lieved his team played well enough to win, or at least tie. But in the un­for­giv­ing Cath­ol­ic League that is at least eight-strong at the top in­clud­ing Wood at St. Hubert (Ry­an and Little Flower are oth­er loc­al con­tenders, while Car­din­al O’Hara, Arch­bish­op Car­roll, Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic and Con­well-Egan boast reput­able squads, as well), play­ing good enough for a tie of­ten won’t be good enough.

“From that point on when we scored the first goal, you could see there was more of a sense of ur­gency from them,” Mc­Groarty said. “What dis­ap­poin­ted me was the last ten to twelve minutes where we wer­en’t really passing or pos­sess­ing the ball. It was al­most like we were play­ing ‘pan­ic ball.’ We can’t win that way, un­less we’re play­ing an in­ex­per­i­enced, less-tal­en­ted team, which we ob­vi­ously wer­en’t.”

The Bam­bies hope boun­cing back from in­jur­ies will ul­ti­mately al­low them to find a level of con­sist­ency. In ad­di­tion to Jef­frey’s on­go­ing mat­ur­a­tion in goal, St. Hubert’s of­fense has some­times un­der­gone re-align­ment, as well. The team’s most re­cog­niz­able play­er, All-Cath­ol­ic se­lec­tion Claire Al­minde, had to shift from for­ward back to cen­ter mid­field­er against the Vik­ings in place of fresh­man Ju­li­ana Caranci, who was out with a con­cus­sion.

“We had three in­jured starters on the bench, which hurt,” Mc­Groarty said. “They’re all good play­ers. So we had to move Claire from for­ward to cen­ter-mid; she’s good there, but up front she scores. We had to ma­nip­u­late some chess pieces around the board to do what we needed to do. We missed Caranci, who is a dogged play­er with a lot of grit to her game.”

In a sense, the early sea­son losses to Wood and Ry­an showed the Bam­bies what they need to work on the most. As Mc­Groarty said, “I don’t think we’ve played bad. We just had a couple of lapses in cer­tain peri­ods of games that have cost us.”

And as long as the Bam­bies fo­cus on what they do well as they con­tin­ue to get health­i­er, the wins should come.

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