Jo Haller quickly bobbed and weaved with the ball through defenders outside the box.
“I had the ball at my feet and I just kind of went for it,” the St. Ann’s mid-fielder said. “Next thing I know, I was in front of the goal.”
After slipping past a third Packer defender, the senior quickly blasted a shot into the far left corner of the net. It was her second goal of the match and the eventual game winner for St. Ann’s in a 3–2 victory over Packer Collegiate in Athletic Association of Independent Schools girls soccer Monday at Red Hook Park in Brooklyn.
It came just two minutes into the second half to give the Steamers a 3–1 lead and their fourth straight win over rival Packer.
“That’s Jo,” St. Ann’s coach Frank Davis said. “She creates stuff. She pulls it out and gets it together for us.”
It’s the type of leadership Davis knows he will miss next season when his senior core of Haller, Beth Alexion and Sarah Hills all graduate. He calls them his triplets. Luckily for Davis he got a glimpse into the future in just St. Ann’s (2-0) second game of the season.
“It’s the sadness of seeing the old ones leave, but seeing this new team that is starting to come together,” Davis said.
Sophomore midfielder Sienna Giraldi had a goal and an assist. Haller, who plays her club ball with the Manhattan Soccer Club, kicked in the rebound of a Giraldi blast deep along the left sideline in the fourth minute. In the 28th minute, Giraldi ran onto a high cross from Alexion that went over Haller’s head deep in the box.
Giraldi’s score made it 2–0, before Packer’s Villanova-bound star Shannon Rhodes tallied a minute later. Giraldi’s blast from just outside the box along the right side hit off the far post and in to help make it 2–1 at the break.
“I wasn’t really thinking, I just wanted to get the ball and get it that general direction,” she said “I trapped it with my stomach and hit in the goal.”
Keeping Packer, which lost in last season’s AAIS final, from doing the same was sophomore keeper Ava Anderson. It was a position Davis was uneasy about coming into the season, but she made nine saves, including six in the final 20 minutes as Packer peppered the net from the outside.
Junior Keegan Mendez finally got one over her leaping hands in the 78th. The St. Ann’s defense, led by Hills, Mika Kligler and Maya Sullivan, cleaned up a few scrambles in the box to preserve the win.
“She was incredible,” Haller said of Anderson.
Packer’s slow start and lack of energy early left it playing from behind the whole afternoon. Rhodes noted it was its first time playing on grass and its younger players needed to get accustomed to St. Ann’s physical, aggressive style. Packer (4-1-1) came into the game unbeaten, including a tie with Poly Prep.
“Our weaknesses were shown big time in this game, some offense things, some defensive things,” Rhodes said. “Our first loss was going to come. It’s still a good start.”
It was Haller’s extra effort that got her team off to quick starts in both halves. Her goal after the break provided St. Ann’s with the type of uplift it expects from its star.
“At halftime we talked about coming out really hard,” Haller said. “I think to score quickly in the second half was big.”