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O’Hara blanks Bonner & Prendergast, earns chance for revenge in final

PLYMOUTH TWP. >> For 60 minutes Monday afternoon, the subtext for Cardinal O’Hara was very clear.

The reward for getting past Bonner & Prendergast in the Catholic League semifinals would be substantial in its own right. But the two-for-one prize awaiting was tinged with revenge: Win, O’Hara knew, and the opportunity to atone for that “1” in the loss column would become a reality.

Cardinal O'Hara goalie Jen Ahearn, right, makes a save on Bonner Prendie's Maeve Finnegan, left, as O'Hara's Emily Quintus assists on defense in the Catholic League field hockey semifinals Monday. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Cardinal O’Hara goalie Jen Ahearn, right, makes a save on Bonner Prendie’s Maeve Finnegan, left, as O’Hara’s Emily Quintus assists on defense in the Catholic League field hockey semifinals Monday. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Cardinal O’Hara took care of their end of the bargain with a 2-0 victory over No. 2 seed Bonner & Prendergast at the Proving Grounds, booking a place in the final.

And the bonus for the No. 3 Lions (18-1) is a shot at redemption for a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Archbishop Carroll on Oct. 21. That setback triggered the league’s spate of tiebreakers, which left the Lions as the road team Monday against a side it had beaten 5-0 in the regular season. Paired with top-seeded Carroll’s 6-0 win over No. 4 St. Hubert in the other semifinal, the rivals will clash once again, a possibility O’Hara had unapologetically hoped for.

“Bonner-Prendie, they played awesome,” defender Liz Tosto said. “But they were in our way to get to the (final), so now we just want to get to Carroll and beat them and get our revenge.”

That’s not the only snag in the tangled web of District 12. The Lions had already clinched a date in the district title game to vie for a berth in the PIAA Class 3A tournament.

Bonner & Prendie, meanwhile, by virtue of its 5-0 regular-season win over Carroll, has the edge to represent the Catholic League in the District 12 title game for its lone Class 2A states berth. Carroll would play for states if it wins the Catholic League title at Neumann University (Wednesday, 7:15 p.m.) An O’Hara win sends the Pandas (12-5) to the district’s 2A title game.

The play between O’Hara and Bonner & Prendie was less befuddling, sealed by goals off two of O’Hara’s 13 penalty corners.

Sara Hayes broke the Pandas’ dogged resistance with 8:37 left in the first half, batting down a feed by Annemarie Banes that deflected off a defender’s stick and bounded high over the defense to Hayes perched near the line.

“It is (tough),” Pandas goaltender Chelsea Rafferty said. “No one can really get it. It’s no one’s fault. We worked hard to get the ball, but it happens.”

Cardinal O’Hara’s Meghan Shallow (23), who scored the Lions’ second goal, controls the ball as Molly McNulty (37) of Bonner & Prendergast defends. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Cardinal O’Hara’s Meghan Shallow (23), who scored the Lions’ second goal, controls the ball as Molly McNulty (37) of Bonner & Prendergast defends. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Rafferty, who finished with a dozen saves, again did her job 3:32 into the second half in kicking aside a Hayes shot. But the ball trickled to Meghan Shallow, who blasted it into the cage to double the lead.

“I saw a ball come out and I knew that was my position,” Shallow said. “We practiced all day yesterday on corners, and I knew I had to put it right back in when it came out.”

The Lions held decisive edges in corners (13-7) and shots (22-8). O’Hara goalie Jen Ahearn was not called into action until after the second goal and produced three saves, the biggest a kick out on a Riley Dolan shot off a corner.

O’Hara’s dominance was more pronounced in the first half, with a 13-2 edge in shots. It led 12-2 on corners before the Pandas started pressing late.

Yet Rafferty looked calm in the face of such pressure and racked up the saves to prove it.

“I was fine because I was confident in my defense,” she said. “We work as a team. They know what to do. It wasn’t really difficult for me at all because I have such an awesome defense. We did a good job as a team to get the ball out of the circle.”

The attacking momentum not only denied the Pandas possession, but it occupied Dolan, their dangerous playmaker. Pinning her back defensively limited her offensive imprint.

Bonner & Prendergast's Riley Dolan, right, tries to get around Cardinal O'Hara's Sara Hayes. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Bonner & Prendergast’s Riley Dolan, right, tries to get around Cardinal O’Hara’s Sara Hayes. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“Riley played awesome, and we definitely needed to shut her down,” Shallow said. “I think we did a really good job of defending her. She did really well, but we came back really strong and we did well against her.”

O’Hara worked chances to extend the lead, but Rafferty came up with several big stops, including two denials of Emily Quintus off the same corner and a stonewalling of Hannah Nihill on a breakaway.

Bonner & Prendie pushed numbers forward, but too often the efforts steered wide of the cage. Carly Brosious lofted a shot high off a corner, and Kerri Quinn, who had several promising looks, couldn’t redirect a driven Dolan ball into the circle goalward.

The result moves Bonner & Prendie into the, as Rafferty called it, “weird” position: The Pandas are rooting hard for O’Hara Wednesday, hoping their season has at least one more game to it.

“We’re hoping O’Hara wins, so that we can still be in states and come back and try to do our best like we do as a team,” Rafferty said. “… It’s very weird. But we just want the best for our team.”

In the other Catholic League semifinal:

Archbishop Carroll 6, St. Hubert 0 >> Maddie Sutter recorded a hat trick, and Sam Swart paired a goal with an assist as the Patriots (11-3) downed the Bambies. Meg Foster and Jess Hewitt also scored for Carroll.

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