When most of the action goes away from her and she’s all alone in the net, Mackenzie Gagliardi finds her own way to deal with the sometimes-maddening periods of inactivity and isolation.
Sometimes so loudly, in fact, that her pleading voice resonates all the way down the other end of the field and up to the top of the stands. Which is what happened while Gagliardi was chattering words of inspiration to her Wyoming Seminary teammates a whole field away during a 2-1 overtime state playoff upset of District 4 champion Selinsgrove.
“I have seven siblings,” Gagliardi chuckled. “I’m not a shy person.”
There’s no shying away from one good reason the Blue Knights made it to the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal round today.
Their goalie Gagliardi is something to shout about.
She made 16 saves through the District 2 championship game against high-powered Crestwood, holding the explosive Comets to one of their lowest-scoring games of the season. And although Sem dropped that 2-0 game, Gagliardi was undeterred.
She surrendered the first goal of the game in Tuesday’s first-round state game, then didn’t give the Seals another while making eight saves through overtime to help the Blue Knights advance to play Upper Perkiomen at noon today at Emmaus High School.
“Oh, she’s definitely been important,” Wyoming Seminary coach Karen Klassner said. “She is one of the leaders on defense for us. She takes control completely when she’s in the cage.”
That defense has been crucial to Sem’s success in reaching the District 2 finals and the state quarterfinals, because the Blue Knights have managed just two goals combined in their last two games.
“Actually, we’ve had trouble scoring for two years now,” Klassner said. “She (Gagliardi) knows that. She knows how important it is to keep us in the game. And she’s kept us in a lot of games to give us a chance, the way she did against Selinsgrove.
“She had some really amazing saves.”
A key one came pretty late.
With about five minutes to play in regulation — and after the teams spent over seven minutes on the other side of midfield — Selinsgrove put together a rare rush to take a shot at Gagliardi and victory. Sem’s stalwart goalie simply smacked it away.
“My mom tells me the next save is the best save,” Sem’s junior stopper said of Catherine Gagliardi of Wilkes-Barre. “There was still a lot of game to play after the first goal (in the first half Tuesday). A lot of state games are 1-0, 2-1, 2-0. Our team’s had a little bit of trouble scoring. We need someone to pick ourselves up. During the game, we all try to stay positive.”
Which is where Gagliardi’s hollering comes into play.
“It’s hard, when you’re not so active, to get ready again,” Gagliardi said. “By talking — if I talk to (backs) Izzy (Isabella DelPriore) or Madison (Dowd) or Tali Dressler — our defensive pack in the back — we stay focused. Izzy DelPriore, she stops about every tough ball. I don’t know how she does it, she just puts her stick down and gets it out.”
Gagliardi, a junior and two-year starter in goal for Sem, wanted to get out on her own when she first grabbed the goalie gear to play field hockey.
Her sister Devon was the scorer.
Devon Gagliardi was a three-time All-Stater and two-time state champion who scored 56 goals and registered 33 assists over her final three seasons playing forward for Sem. Now a fifth-year senior at Duke, Devon scored the winning goal against Virginia to lead the Blue Devils into the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
Mackenzie wanted to be the stopper.
“Devon, she’s a forward. I wanted to be a goalie,” said Mackenzie, who spent her grade school and junior high years in the Meyers system before enrolling at Sem as a freshman.
Naturally, the two squared off growing up.
“Devon’s been a big help. During the summer, we would play against each other,” Mackenzie said. “My sophomore year, I wasn’t so good. She would beat me.”
Not so much this past offseason.
“Over this summer, I was pushing her (shots) off,” Mackenzie said. “She’s like, ‘What happened?’ “
Hours of work and a will to improve changed Mackenzie’s game.
“She had do to a lot of work to get to this point,” Klassner said. “We had to work on her conditioning, and her sister (Devon) helped with that. Conditioning helps you mentally as well as physically.
“The thing with her, she follows the game,” Klassner continued of her ace goal protector. “She’s not the type of goal keeper where, when she doesn’t get action, she gets back on her heels. She follows the game, she knows what’s going on all the time. I’m a defensive coach. To me, defense wins championships.”
And with her defensive play, Mackenzie Gagliardi has the Blue Knights in position to make a run at one after taking out a Selinsgrove team that one of many tough tests in the PIAA field.
“This win, it was like a lift of relief off our shoulders,” Gagliardi said. “I think it makes us feel so much better, especially after the district loss.
“We know we can do it.”