Delco Christian can’t keep up with Dock

WARMINSTER — After coming up lame for the umpteenth time early in the second half Wednesday night, Delco Christian coach Bill Neef implored star striker Julia Kyne. What could he, or anyone, do to help her cope with the agonizing back pain that has dogged her throughout the season and escalated to nearly unbearable levels?

Kyne’s answer was simple: “It hurts more when I stop running.’

So the senior, hoping that the District One Class A championship game wouldn’t be her last in a Knights uniform, simply ran. And ran. And ran.

And when it was all over — the scoreboard at William Tennent High School showing a grossly unrepresentative margin of 5-0 in favor of Christopher Dock — Kyne finally could run no more.

That’s why, as Delco Christian queued up to receive its collection of silver medals, Kyne remained flat on her throbbing back on the 40-yard line, arms over her head to stem the tide of tears, literally run into the ground. And that’s why, as her fellow Knights tried to force smiles with silver medals around their necks, there was Kyne in the middle of the group (as she was at the center of the run to a second straight title game) in a folding chair, able only to muster enough strength to move to the trainer’s cart to be driven off the field.

There was no heroic ending for Kyne or a Knights team that collectively gave it everything, not even in a game where the Messiah-bound All-Delco summoned every ounce of energy in her tortured back to push the issue against top-seeded Dock, making the Knights (12-6-2) the more dangerous side for large stretches of a game that entered halftime scoreless.

Instead, the culmination of Kyne’s senior year did no justice to her perseverance through an injury-blighted campaign — for her and many teammates — that out of immense skill and sheer force of will resulted in 35 goals.

One play brought the difference into clear focus. Seven minutes into the second half, the game still scoreless, Kyne latched onto a through ball from Kailey Neef, taking possession just past the midfield stripe. She took three touches to the edge of the 18-yard box, but instead of the customary blow-by that she’s executed countless times, her lack of that final, put-away burst caused her to turn back and look for passing options. Three Dock defenders converged, and the opening fizzled.

“It was hard to have a good counter attack from getting the ball on defense, because we didn’t have that many attackers going up,’ said DC forward Alex Thompson, who was also nursing her share of end-of-season bumps and bruises. “Their offense is really fast, so it’s hard to keep up. We just didn’t have enough players to score.’

Thompson had the Knights’ best chance, stinging a turnaround shot near the top of the area midway through the second half that appeared ticketed for the roof of the net, but goalkeeper Emily Gordon reached up and plucked it out of the air.

Dock, meanwhile, got the breaks in its penalty area. The first goal came when Bailey Kratz’s short corner-kick delivery into the box pinballed off Delco Christian winger Taylor Mingle and squeaked through a narrow opening at goalie Ronnie Marie Falasco’s near post. For all the well-constructed attacking near-misses on both sides, the first blood was drawn in the flukiest of ways.

The lead doubled in the 68th minute, when a Falasco goal kick ricocheted off a couple of defenders and found Mattasyn Shisler all alone 25 yards from goal for the forward to finish a shot just over Falasco’s head.

Shisler’s goal proved to be the backbreaker, opening the floodgates for three more tallies, including two from Kratz. That furnished a final score that failed to capture a solid defensive effort from Paige Thompson and Claudia Norton, the latter of whom cleared two would-be goals off the line.

“You could tell we really dropped after the second goal, even the first goal, because it never should’ve happened,’ Alex Thompson said. “But after the second goal happened, I could just tell everyone’s spirits were dropping, and we just weren’t the same team as in the first half.’

While Dock may have been exceedingly fortunate on the offensive end, it was a bricks-and-mortar effort at the back that repelled Delco Christian’s advances and preserved the victory. Even with Sharon Curtis limping off with an ankle problem in the first half, the improvised central defense pairing of Nikki Clements and Eden Nafziger made up for what they lacked in size by expert anticipation and reliable clearances.

Coupled with the imposing Megan Swintosky in the midfield stopper role and referees allowing a physical brand of play that best suited Dock, Delco Christian was left with few options.

“We’ve played them so many times over the years that we know how to defend them, so we were pretty prepared for it,’ Clements said. “I think we did pretty well working together. We knew when to cover for each other when we were making runs up the field.’

About all there was left for Kyne was to run and hope.

“You always have to tell yourself to keep going even though you know most of your team is hurt,’ Alex Thompson said. “It’s hard because a lot of the options you usually have aren’t there.’

And those that were, weren’t at full strength, no matter how much determination — and running — there was.

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