PHILADELPHIA >> Lansdale Catholic’s girls soccer team felt like this would be the year.
Sometimes though, even the best-laid-plans don’t come to fruition. For the third straight season, the Crusaders went into the Philadelphia Catholic League title game hopeful and saw their dreams snatched away.
A long breakaway goal by Archbishop Ryan separated the sides as LC fell 1-0 in the PCL final Monday night at Northeast High.
“I thought we actually played pretty well and that’s the thing when it’s all over,” LC coach Tom O’Donnell said. “You look back and think what did we do wrong? The goal they scored, I didn’t see what exactly happened, I looked up and a ball gets knocked through and there’s a kid wide-open at midfield.”
After playing to a draw in the regular season, the PCL’s top two teams again waged another tight contest. Ryan, like most teams, wasn’t going to take any chances with LC senior Kate Henesey.
The Ragdolls center defender Maria Deleso shadowed Henesey all match, but didn’t leave her out there alone. Ryan, which clinched the top seed on tiebreakers, sent second or third defenders to Henesey as soon as the ball started going her way.
“They defended very well, they were fierce in the way they attacked us,” O’Donnell said. “We got kids in behind them and they ran as fast as they could and they got the ball and or the body and made some really nice, hard-nosed defensive plays.”
Even for a player as physically strong as Henesey, it’s tough to play through multiple defenders and moreso when the game was allowed to play physical. Still, the Bucknell recruit managed LC’s best chance of the first half when she rang the far post after a great run and cross by Julia Boccella.
“That’s a bang-bang play that you’re either making or you’re not,” O’Donnell said. “Defensively, Kate got in behind them and it just didn’t happen for us. You got the feeling when she hit the post, you think man, that’s the best chance we’ve had in 40 minutes and we hit the post.”
Both sides had opportunities to score, with LC keeper Lauren Crim making a reactionary kick save on Priscilla Walsh at the near post about 12 minutes in. Crim ended the first half with three saves while Ryan’s Devon McDonald also had a trio of stops.
The breakthrough came early in the second half.
With LC pushing numbers up to try and take advantage of a throw-in deep in Ragdoll territory, Ryan got a break. Kaitlyn Findlay won a header on the fringe of the box, then sent a through ball to Gianna Monaco.
Monaco ran nearly 70 yards as LC’s defense sprinted back furiously, but nobody could catch her as she ran into the box and slipped the ball past Crim with 36:28 to play. In a tight game between two good sides, one goal is often the difference.
“It did come off our possession, we just smelled blood in the water there and felt we could press up and get a goal there,” O’Donnell said. “I ended up pulling some kids and putting in subs who were more offensive-minded. One goal could win it, I didn’t anticipate it would be their one goal going the other way on that play.”
LC had some chances after the goal, with Henesey continuing to battle multiple defenders and the rest of the Crusaders pressing with all they had. Henesey and Sarah Fitzpatrick combined well for a chance but Fitzpatrick’s shot came from a tough angle and was stopped by McDonald.
Senior Sarah Cooney had a strong game for LC in center mid, taking a couple good shots from deep, winning balls and playing passes. Rose Stella also put in a couple of good free kicks and long balls , but none led to a goal.
Crim had a very good match, making six saves, and played the breakaway goal as well as possible by delaying to the last second and forcing the shot to the post.
“She came out and got down on the ground and the kid just beat her with a very nice finish,” O’Donnell said. “She didn’t try to kill it and I give her a lot of credit there.”
LC returns to action on Wednesday in the District 12-3A title game, again at Northeast. Unlike last year, when losing the PCL title game ended the Crusaders’ season, they have a chance to play again.
O’Donnell figured his players would be upset about Monday’s outcome, especially the seniors but said this loss wasn’t as devastating as last year’s setback in overtime was.
“What I couldn’t anticipate was one kid getting one breakaway and us getting a chance and it hitting the post, that’s your ballgame right there,” O’Donnell said. “Her shot kissed the inside of the post and went in, ours hits the bar and is a clunker that comes out. That’s soccer.”
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