BRISTOL TWP. – With a goal tallied by Pennsbury senior Lizzie Kirk 18 minutes into the first half, the District 1 champion Falcons seemed like they were on their way in last night’s PIAA opener against District 3 champion Central Dauphin.
Up 1-0 at the half in a battle that took place under a driving rain Tuesday night, Nov. 7 at Henry C Morgan Stadium, there was nothing in Pennsbury’s 2017 campaign to suggest that the Falcons would not emerge victorious. Pennsbury had not surrendered two goals in one half of soccer in any previous matchup, much less three.
And yet, three times, the Rams put balls into the back of the net after the intermission to emerge with a 3-1 triumph that sent the visitors from Harrisburg to the state quarterfinals vs. District 1 rival Owen J. Roberts, a 5-0 winner over Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) champion Archbishop Ryan.
Less than eight minutes into the second half, Central Dauphin netted the equalizer when senior Lauren Currey pushed a ball into the left side of the net after a defensive breakdown by the Falcons.
“We made one mistake and I think that was their first shot in the (second) half,” said Pennsbury head coach Kaitlyn Battiste. “But credit to them for capitalizing on their opportunities.
While the goal by Currey certainly ignited the Rams, it also did everything to deflate the Falcons.
“At that point, the momentum swung in their favor and we weren’t able to get it back,” explained Battiste. “It hurts, it’s disappointing.
“Up until then, (we) were doing everything right.
“And just like that … soccer can be cruel, that way.”
With 12:32 remaining in regulation, the Rams tallied the game-winner when junior Lexi Johnson converted on a corner kick. Currey added an insurance strike with 3:11 showing on the second-half clock, blasting a ball that was just outside the reach of Falcon keeper Kerry Phillips into the right side of an open net.
“Playing in this type of environment – this is the state playoffs so we knew that these are all quality teams that we could face,” stated Battiste.
“Credit to them for taking advantage of the opportunities that they had.”
With her team holding a 1-0 lead at the intermission, Battiste reassembled her offense with designs on padding the Falcon lead in the second half.
“We knew one-nothing wasn’t going to be enough,” the coach explained. “We were happy with their play at that point but we were hoping we were going to get some more opportunities to get a few more (goals) back there.”
With Pennsbury clinging to that 1-0 edge, senior Kelsey Butler – who fed Kirk the pass on the goal that gave the Falcons their only lead in the first half – missed a golden opportunity when she went in all alone on Rams keeper Cassy Baker only to see her shot fly over the crossbar seven and a half minutes into the second half.
Moments later, Currey came up with the equalizer and the Rams were on their way.
“This is a cruel time of the year,” said Battiste. “There’s 16 teams (in states) and only one gets to be happy at the end of it all.”
After recording a 10-1-1 mark in the Suburban One National League, Pennsbury notched its second District 1 crown in four seasons with D1 playoff wins over Downingtown East, Council Rock South, Owen J. Roberts and Spring-Ford.
“I’m proud of what these girls accomplished this year,” said Battiste. “No one can take that away from them. They had a great regular season and a great district tournament.”
With her team trailing 2-1 at the time, Falcon forward Christine Cataldo-Smith, one of a half-dozen juniors returning to the team next season, had a chance to tie the game at 2-all with 7:44 remaining in regulation. A pair of Central Dauphin defenders closed quickly on Cataldo-Smith however and she says she was mugged on the play.
“Evie (Ciaccia) did a good job of saving the ball and keeping it inbounds,” said Cataldo-Smith.
“It came to me, I was right in front of the post. I just tried to pull it back and put it into the goal.
“The next thing I knew, I was being thrown against the post and kneed in the face and I just couldn’t see anything after that.”
“The next thing I knew I was on the ground.”
When graduation takes place in the spring, Pennsbury will wave goodbye to nine seniors including Phillips, Kirk, Butler, captains Hope Drewes and Riley Young, Dani Cady, Jenna Peters, Caroline Marr and Nina Rainforth.
Still, Cataldo-Smith believes the Falcons can come back and compete in 2018.
“You can always have a good season,” she said. “It’s not always about how good each player is; it’s the fight and the heart that you leave on the field.”
NOTES: On its last trip to states in 2014, Pennsbury won its PIAA opener vs. Hershey but lost 2-1 to CB West, which went on to win the PIAA Class AAA title.
Central Dauphin 3, Pennsbury 1
(Nov. 7 at Truman)
Pennsbury (19-2-2) 1 0 – 1
Central Dauphin (19-4) 0 3 – 3
FIRST-HALF GOALS: P – Lizzie Kirk, from Kelsey Butler, 18th minute; CD – none.
SECOND-HALF GOALS: P – none; CD – Lauren Currey, 48th minute, Lexi Johnson, 68th minute, Currey, 77th minute.
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