Private school sports preview: Gerstell adjusting to life in IAAM
Gerstell Academy’s girls soccer team won 13 games last fall in its final tune-up before becoming an official member of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland.
The Falcons will be in contention for an IAAM A Conference championship this season with stalwarts such as Archbishop Spalding and McDonogh.
Those teams have combined to the past 10 IAAM A Conference titles — McDonogh is the reigning champ, with four of the last five, and Spalding last won in 2016.
Falcons coach Giuliano Celenza, in his fourth year, said before the season started he figured navigating through a prestigious league for the first time would pose a challenge.
“Playing in one of the best girls conferences in the country, it’s tough,” Celenza said. “You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every day. But I feel like the girls are competing. I can’t complain with how hard the girls are working.”
Gerstell opened its season with a victory over Liberty, then knocked off Park School 3-1 on Sept. 12. Lauren Messinese, a junior midfielder, had a goal and an assist in the win.
The Falcons are 0-2 in A Conference play, however, after losses to Notre Dame Prep (2-1) and John Carroll (2-0).
Their latest loss came Tuesday, but Celenza said some growing pains are to be expected. Gerstell fields only three seniors — midfielder Tyra Echevarria, defender Gabby Manning, and goalkeeper Noel Talbot — and lost several talented players from last year’s 13-3 squad.
But that’s not to say the Falcons’ roster isn’t dotted with skilled contributors.
Messinese and younger sister Emily, a sophomore, should man the midfield, along with fellow sophomore Kennedy Major.
Emily Messinese scored in Gerstell’s 2-1 loss to NDP on Friday.
Freshman midfielder Kylie Redman had two assists against Park, a game that was shortened because of lightning.
Manning is one of the anchors on defense — she converted a penalty kick in Gerstell’s 1-0 win over Liberty in the opener — and Talbot gives the Falcons another veteran in the back.
Gerstell’s first IAAM home game is set for Friday against Mercy (4-0), and the Falcons face another Carroll opponent in Winters Mill, the reigning Class 2A West champs, Oct. 1.
“It comes down the playing together as a team,” Celenza said. “It’s definitely going to take time. There’s no game that you can take off or anything like that. It just gets tougher from here.”
Gerstell’s boys improved to 3-2 with a 1-0 victory over Annapolis Area Christian on Monday. The Falcons are coming off a 7-9 season, and second-year coach Ashley Murphy said improvement is the focus this fall.
Gone is Times first-team all-county midfielder Nate Dresin, who led Gerstell in scoring with nine goals and 14 assists in 2017. But the Falcons return senior forward Malachi Darden and a pair of standout defenders in senior Max Friedman and junior CJ Kovalsky.
Murphy said via email Gerstell’s mission each fall is to “strive for the MIAA B conference playoffs and to fulfill our full potential on the soccer pitch.”
The Falcons won MIAA C Conference championships in 2011 and 2012, and claimed the B Conference crown in 2013.
The Patriots’ boys soccer team is off to a 4-1 start and brings back a potent scorer from last year’s 20-2 team. Jhon Alzate, a senior center midfielder, posted 18 goals and 10 assists in 2017.
Carroll has won the past two Maryland Association of Christian Schools Athletic Conference titles, and 10th-year coach Josh Belcher said the schedule should challenge the Pats as they begin another quest.
“Should be a great year and looking forward to trying to three-peat as conference champs,” Belcher said via email.
The Patriots’ volleyball team has a thing for capturing MACSAC championships — Carroll Christian’s 16-3 record in 2017 included their 16th consecutive conference tournament championship.
Carroll is 7-2 this season, with senior outside hitter Emma Paul leading the way. Sarah Hahn, in her eighth year as coach, said Paul is getting help from juniors Abbey Duncan and Natalie Tracey, both setters.
The Patriots also feature senior middle hitter Mikaela Martin and junior outside Sydney Wooden as a few more of their top players.
Carroll visits Greater Grace Academy Christian Academy in Baltimore on Thursday in its next match.