PHILADELPHIA >> Sophia Filippo and Kylie Menarde have a connection on corner kicks.
It’s a connection honed through their years of playing together that date back at least a decade. Saturday at the South Philly Super Site, their connection paid off at the biggest moment of the season.
Filippo headed in a Menarde corner with 7:45 left in overtime to lift the Vikings to a 2-1 win over Lansdale Catholic in the Philadelphia Catholic League girls soccer championship game.
“I took a shot and the goalie saved it so I was just focused on being in the right place on the corner,” Filippo, a senior said. “A couple corners before it went right over my head because I was too close so Kylie just crossed it, it was a perfect ball and I ran onto it and headed it in.”
Filippo’s goal salvaged a very sluggish game between the two teams where neither side really connected too many passes and the offensive chances were few and far between. It was Wood’s first PCL title since 2011. For LC, it was the program’s fifth loss in the final since joining the league in 2008 and the third time the Crusaders fell to Wood.
After losing to the No. 1 seed Crusaders 4-1 in the regular season, the Vikings were committed to not letting that same kind of game happen again. LC forward Kate Henesey had scored all four goals in the first meeting, so the Vikings stuck Erin Welsh on the high-scoring forward and the strategy paid off.
“They’re a good solid team, good with possession and just good all-around,” Menarde said. “We knew that was how it was going to be, a close game, very physical, very tight possessive game. We just tried to play better and play harder.”
LC scored six minutes into the game when Sarah Fitzpatrick followed a shot by Erin Toburen and tapped it home. Instead of collapsing, it seemed to strengthen Wood’s resolve and the Vikings started defending with more gusto while trying to get something moving forward.
The wind was a factor all game, especially with both teams putting a ton of balls into the air as opposed to trying to play on the ground. Wood tied the game with 17:03 left in the first half when Lauren Ruth was fouled in the box and drew a penalty kick.
Defender Leah Brzezicki stepped up to the spot and buried it.
“At the beginning of the game we were excited and we kind of panicked ourselves but I think once we scored, everybody settled down,” Menarde said. “We started playing to feet, we started playing more defensive, got it together and came back.”
LC was the more offensive team in the second half, but none of its shots were all that threatening, coming from outside the box.
“When we had periods where we did knock it around, we were very effective,” LC coach Tom O’Donnell said. “Both teams got into this, let’s kick it long and hope for a mistake or kick and run. There were times when it seemed like that was the game plan for both teams and I’m sure that’s not what (Wood coach Bill) Cappo wants to do and I don’t want to do.”
Filippo had a chance to end the game with 8:31 left in overtime, but she didn’t hit the ball the way she had hoped and it was saved out by LC keeper Cailey Maxwell for the pivotal corner.
The senior was a bright spot offensively, able to get the ball to her foot and move up and down the field with it, but she hadn’t been able to put anything away. After their first couple tries at corner kicks hadn’t worked out, she and Menarde started to adjust to the conditions.
“We can look at each other and I know where she’s going to pass it and we know each other,” Filippo said. “We practice it a lot, the corners and set plays. I was too close to her, so it went over my head. On the last corner, I made sure to be back a little more.”
None of the players on the current Wood roster had won a PCL title prior to Saturday. LC’s players did not get to share in the elation that the Vikings felt celebrating at midfield.
“We’ve been down this path and that’s what’s so hard,” O’Donnell said. “I almost feel numb when I see that ball go in. I’ve been here before but they haven’t and they’re shattered and will have to cry it all out.”
Wood has been riding the momentum since upsetting St. Hubert, another team it lost to during the regular season, in the semifinals.
“We’ve gotten better but even a couple times during the season we’d be losing 2-0 and came back to win or tie it,” Filippo said. “I knew we could do it. I like being the underdog. We went in feeling like whatever happened, happened and we didn’t feel as much pressure.”
Top Photo: Archbishop Wood Sophia Filippo, who scored the game winner in overtime, gets a step on Lansdale Catholic’s Lena Staropoli during the Philadelphia Catholic League championship on Saturday, Oct. 29. (Rick Cawley/For Digital First Media