DOWNINGTOWN—When you’re a high seed, there’s always a danger of looking past a first round opponent, especially if you already have a lopsided win over that team earlier in the season. But the consequences of taking any playoff team lightly could very well be an abrupt end to your season.
No. 2 Bishop Shanahan was in that situation Tuesday when they hosted No. 15 Pope John Paul II, a team they beat 9-1 earlier in the year. From the opening whistle, though, the Eagles played with intensity, putting relentless pressure on the Golden Panthers throughout. Shanahan scored early, and played tight defense in the rain, cruising to a 5-0 shutout.
With the win, the Eagles (17-2) advance to Thursday’s Class 2A quarterfinal where they will face No. 7 Mount St Joe’s, a 7-0 winner over Springfield (Delco), with a guaranteed berth in the state tournament on the line.
“We talked about it yesterday—you lose this game and you’re one and done,” said Shanahan coach Nancy Roselli. “If we lose from here on out, there’s a second chance. You want to come out strong, and carry that along.”
Both teams struggled with the hard rain in the early going, though the Eagles were controlling possessions and getting pressure inside the circle. Shanahan forced three penalty corners over the first nine minutes, finally getting on the board when Angelina Luongo converted on the third of the half, slamming a close-range shot through the goalie and a defender.
“During weather like this, we just all decided to push through and play with intensity,” said Luongo. “We just tried to block all the other stuff out, like the weather and the opponent, and just played our game.”
The Eagles managed just one other goal in the half, with Gabby O’Brien passing to Luongo for her second goal of the game. But if not for some excellent play in the cage from the Panthers’ goalie, Chicky Escudero, the margin could easily been double digits by halftime. Escudero, who finished the night with 22 saves, notched 14 of them in the first half.
“That was hands down one of her best games ever,” said Panthers’ coach Alexis Versak. “She kept us in the game for quite a while. But they just kept coming at us, and eventually got through.”
Shanahan’s cage minder, Emma Leppert, on the other hand, was mostly a spectator. PJPII was limited to a single corner try, late in the first half, and got off just one shot in the game, which Leppert rejected.
“Our defensive end has been great all season,” said O’Brien. “Emma has been amazing, and our backs have been strong, which helps the forwards knowing the defense is contributing as much as the offense.”
The Eagles notched three more goals in the second half. Just before the halfway mark, Lauren Bradley fed O’Brien for a score, then Shanahan tacked on a pair in quick succession from Brie Mallozzi and another from O’Brien.
“We’re playing really well right now, and have gotten better as the year went on,” said O’Brien. “We all want to make it to states. Hopefully we do it the easier way with a win on Thursday, but we’ll all fight our way back if we have to.”
The season comes to a close for the Panthers, who finish the year with a record of 7-10-1.
“This team keeps improving, and I think we were all just happy to have made it this far,” said Versak. “But the experience can only help us. Hopefully next year we can get back, win a couple of games, and take that next step forward.”
Pope John Paul II 0 0 –0
Bishop Shanahan 2 3 –5
Goals: Luongo (2), O’Brien (2), Mallozzi
Goalie Saves: Escudero (PJP) 22, Leppert (BS) 1
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