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Cooney’s last-minute heroics send Lansdale Catholic to PCL final

BENSALEM >> With just a minute to go in regulation and the score tied 1-1, Lansdale Catholic girls soccer coach Tom O’Donnell was just about to pull offensive star Sarah Cooney and rest her for overtime when suddenly, he had a hunch.

“I was that close,” O’Donnell said, “to saying ‘let’s play defense and get to overtime.’ And when we got the corner and I’m still trying to sub a kid on, that’s when I said ‘let’s leave Cooney up top and play that through.’”

Sure enough, with 50 seconds to play, Colbie Cummings’ corner kick came sailing through the air, Cooney got to it and headed it home, giving the Crusaders a 2-1 victory over four-time defending champion Archbishop Ryan in a Philadelphia Catholic League semifinal.

The win advanced the top-seeded Crusaders to Saturday’s PCL Final, to take  Archbishop Wood, a 3-1 winner over St. Hubert in the later semifinal, at the Philly Super Site, at a time to be announced.

“This was kind of a sweet revenge kind of game,” said Cooney, whose team fell in the PCL Final last year to Ryan but this year came through with the victory, on a cold night at the United German Hungarian Soccer Club. “This isn’t the championship game but it’s going to the championship game, and it’s just nice to play them as hard as we could and get that win.”

After Kearra Yaffe tied the game for Ryan eight minutes into the second half, the game remained deadlocked at one until under a minute to play.

LC got a corner and Cooney went to work.

“It was something I’ll never forget,” the junior said of the goal. “I felt an obligation to put it in the net but for my team, we’ve been working so hard for this game and we really wanted to come out and win.

“(Ryan defenders) were kind of scattered up there and it was a last-minute corner where we’re trying to get it in quickly, and I think there was one girl who was on me initially but I don’t know where she went — I saw the ball and I was like ‘this is coming right to me.’ I was turning, I faced the net and I just plopped it wherever I could.”

The Crusaders had a last-minute goal and a first-minute goal, the other score coming from Kate Henesey, just a minute into the contest. The Crusaders missed a penalty kick and had two shots hit the post but went to the break up 1-0.

Ryan hung in, getting the equalizer from Yaffe. The Raiders put on some pressure for the remainder of the second half but it would be LC that broke the tie.

“It’s unfortunate to give up a goal with 50 seconds left, especially a season-ending goal, but I’m proud of what they accomplished this year,” Ragdolls coach Jonathan Geist said of his team, which returns its entire starting lineup next season. “Hopefully they come back a little hungry next year and take another shot at it.”

The game seemed destined for overtime until Cooney came through for LC.

“It was really a well-played game,” O’Donnell said. “What a finish. We put Cooney on specifically for the offense — she’s a force. She’s a really good all-league defender but we put her up at the end.

“I was gonna pull her, thinking ‘let’s play defense and get to overtime.’ The best moves are the ones you don’t make.”

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