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Sareyka’s timely OT delivery gives TCA first title

EAST WHITELAND >> Hannah Sareyka wasn’t sure how much time was left on the clock Tuesday night. But after 95 minutes of soccer — 93 of which featured no separation with Delco Christian — the Christian Academy junior midfielder wasn’t going to squander her chance.

Sareyka latched onto a through ball, outran a defender and placed a shot just out of the reach of DC goalkeeper Ronnie Marie Falasco with 27 seconds showing on the clock as TCA claimed its first District 1 Class A championship with a 2-1 overtime victory at Great Valley High School.

“There was 20 seconds left, Lindsay (Haseltine) played me that ball and it was the perfect opportunity to get the job done,” Sareyka said. “I knew that if I didn’t make that, we would’ve gone into (a second) overtime or PKs and we could’ve lost.”

With TCA resorting to counterattacks as Delco Christian pushed the pace in extra time, Haseltine played a ball from midfield that glanced off a defender and sent Sareyka free down the left channel. Sareyka played it on with her right foot, then shot with her left across the grain, firing past the reach of Falasco’s left hand and sending the top-seeded Crusaders (13-3-1) onto the field in celebration.

Christian Academy forward Hannah Sareyka, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime, takes flight in pursuit of the ball during Tuesday’s PIAA DIstrict 1 Class A girls soccer championship match against Delco Christian. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Christian Academy forward Hannah Sareyka, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime, takes flight in pursuit of the ball during Tuesday’s PIAA DIstrict 1 Class A girls soccer championship match against Delco Christian. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

TCA, in its second year back in the PIAA, also claims the district’s bid to the Class A state tournament.

Vital though Sareyka’s finish was, it was only made possible by a moment of brilliance by goalie Madison Dutton four minutes earlier. Delco Christian’s eminently dangerous playmaker Alex Thompson appeared to get her foot through the game-winner in the 91st, a lofted shot from 25 yards ticketed for the upper 90.

But Dutton, who missed the second regular-season meeting between the teams with a hip injury, leapt and somehow palmed it over the bar to save TCA.

“I just knew that I had to do anything that I could to save that goal, because if I didn’t, we would’ve lost and it wouldn’t have been a good time,” Dutton said.

“I thought it was in,” Thompson said. “She got it at the last second. I thought it was a goal.”

The hectic pace of overtime was a departure from a relatively sedate regulation, save for a pair of quick-strike goals two minutes apart early in the second half.

Delco Christian (7-11-2) struck first through Elizabeth Eudaly, who headed home a free kick delivery from Claudia Norton. TCA’s riposte was swift, Haseltine rocketing in a shot from the top of the box. Sareyka started the danger, but her shot was blocked by Norton and trickled right to Haseltine.

PHOTO GALLERY: Christian Academy vs. Delco Christian

The bulk of the action centered on limiting the danger players on both sides in the Bicentennial League rivals’ third game of the season, having split the previous meetings. Thompson had Grace Gormley for near-constant defensive company, an arrangement that didn’t surprise the St. Bonaventure commit.

“If it’s a team in our league, they mostly put a player on me or two, especially if we play them twice,” Thompson said. “This is the third time we played (TCA), so they know how to strategize.”

“She’s an amazing player, and I know she’s going D-I,” Gormley said. “She’s so good. Her footwork was amazing. We just had to contain her as a team, and everyone stepped up their game on her and we were all able to do it.”

Christian Academy forward Lindsay Haseltine, right, fights for possession Tuesday. Haseltine scored and set up the overtime game-winner as TCA topped Delco Christian, 2-1, in overtime of the District 1 Class A title game. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Christian Academy forward Lindsay Haseltine, right, fights for possession Tuesday. Haseltine scored and set up the overtime game-winner as TCA topped Delco Christian, 2-1, in overtime of the District 1 Class A title game. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Third-seeded Delco Christian paid similar attention to Haseltine, who still managed to have a hand in both goals. But mostly, it forced frustration for both sides. Neither Dutton (seven saves) nor Falasco (nine saves) was called into serious danger, beyond Dutton’s overtime hero turn. Falasco dove to stop a Sareyka chance in overtime, while Dutton parried a Thompson drive from distance with seven minutes left in regulation.

Thompson also curled a bid in overtime that swerved inches wide of the far post with Dutton beaten.

For the Knights, who banished long-time albatross Christopher Dock with a 3-0 semifinal thrashing, parlaying the momentum of that win last week was part of the challenge.

“I think winning over Dock, DC has never beaten Dock in girls soccer in history I think,” Thompson said. “So it was amazing. We were trying to use that energy to propel us in this game. We came out a little flat in the beginning, but we controlled the game most of the second half and overtime, and they got one opportunity and they finished it.”

TCA and Sareyka are in similarly uncharted territory. Nights like Tuesday are what the school envisioned in rejoining the PIAA for the 2015-16 season, and it’s what Sareyka in particular hoped for in transferring from Gloucester County Christian to the school that members of her family attended in the late-1980s and early-1990s.

Sareyka and her teammates were able to relish in that feeling of arrival Tuesday.

“It feels amazing,” Gormley said. “I can’t even explain it. I’m just so glad that we have a team like this, and we all worked our butts off.”

“It’s pretty great,” Sareyka added. “It feels really good. We didn’t really get these kinds of chances at Gloucester, so it’s really different. And it feels great.”

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