Offense quieted as Lansdale Catholic falls to Fleetwood in PIAA Class AA quarters

 CAERNARVON >> All season long, the Lansdale Catholic girls soccer team had been able to score on pretty much anybody.

With Kate Henesey up top and a number of capable options playing off of her, the Crusaders put a lot balls in the back of a lot of nets. Saturday afternoon at Twin Valley High School, LC ran into a defense it couldn’t crack.

To be totally fair to LC, very few other teams have as well. Thanks to another standout performance from its back line and keeper, Fleetwood stifled LC’s offense and took a 3-0 win in a PIAA Class AA quarterfinal.

“They had good positioning,” Henesey said. “I think our touches were off today but we kept pushing. It was just an off day, we couldn’t get it going.”

Fleetwood (21-1-3) has been closing down offenses all season and it helped the Tigers win the District 3 title. Their back line functioned well as both a unit and as four individuals, closing and sealing off any LC (15-5-3) players that did get forward.

Despite the zero on the scoreboard, LC controlled long stretches of the game, especially in the first half. It was just, as senior Sarah Opdyke put it coming off the field, that Fleetwood had three shots and scored three goals off of them.

A quality back line without someone organzing ig is like a multi-million dollar fighter jet with nobody around to fly it. Luckily for Fleetwood, they had an ace at the sticks in keeper Jenna Hawkins. Hawkins, who only needed to make two saves, was fantastic at calling out LC runners and getting her back line to shift around to cover her bases.

“I think that’s good training from whoever has worked with her,” LC coach Tom O’Donnell said. “That’s experience. She’s a soccer player who’s had training in that spot. I have a very good soccer player (Kristina Finkelston) that we’re trying to turn into a goalkeeper and hasn’t that experience to point out who’s open, who’s not. (Hawkins) was worth her weight in goal.”

Fleetwood’s first real build-up netted a goal with 5:15 left in the first half. A smart diagonal ball out of the midfield sent Sarah Chrissman up the flank, where she was able to turn and send the ball across for Rebekah Earnest.

The Tigers added a second less than 10 minutes into the second half when Chrissman again played set-up. She was able to get loose down the right flank again and played a ball to an open Kortney Rentschler, who placed it well for the goal.

Fleetwood locked up its bid to the semifinals with a third goal. Forward Alexis Nowotarski took a ball upfield, somehow keeping possession through two LC tackles to go 1-on-1 with Finkelston before putting it away.

“They defend very well and the other team was very good about that,” O’Donnell said. “We did what we did and it was good up until a certain point. A comedy of errors on some of the goals, it’s hard to point a finger to say somebody did anything wrong but goal No. 1 kind of finds its way through, it was like a seeing-eye single.”

Other than the lack of goals, it was another typical LC performance. Henesey worked hard up top, the back line of Tara Sheridan, Sara Cooney, Rose Stella and Lena Staropoli held Fleetwood to a minimal number of chances and the midfield covered a lot of ground.

It was just as Henesey said, not their day. One moment in the second half more than summed that up when Henesey finally got a shot in the box, turning and firing only to have a Fleetwood back step in front and block the try.
However, the Crusaders had plenty to take off the field feeling good about.

“Everyone played hard and had a good game, they just got lucky more than we did,” Staropoli said. “More than ever, the girls this year, we were closer. We had lots of chemistry and we haven’t had that before so that was good.”

The Crusaders finished second in the PCL playoffs, beating Wood in the semis to erase a several-year old hex and claimed the District 12 title. Thanks to senior Jules LaSanta, they won their first-ever state playoff game on Tuesday against Southern Lehigh.

“It was cool,” O’Donnell said. “The team that beat us is a competent team, so there’s no hanging heads here. I’ll be riding the bus home with a smile.”

LC loses some great leaders and players like Opdyke, Sheridan and LaSanta among others. But Henesey is just a sophomore, Cooney, Stella, Erin Toburn, Colbie Cummings and Staropoli also anchor the returning core.

It ended in a losing effort, but it was a season to remember for this group of Crusaders.

“Just lots of great memories and a lot of good friends,” Staropoli said.

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