DOWNINGTOWN—Long time Bishop Shanahan field hockey coach Nancy Roselli could barely contain her emotions. Her team is going to states.
Mind you, it isn’t as though her Eagles pulled off the upset of a lifetime to get there. Shanahan is the No. 2 seed in the District 1, Class 2A tournament, and earned its spot in the PIAA championships with an exciting 2-1 quarterfinal round victory over No. 7 Mount St Joe’s, to guarantee a top four finish, with the top five moving on. But when you’ve been making slow but steady progress from year to year, to take that next step is kind of a big deal.
Up next for the Eagles is a quarterfinal round match-up next Tuesday, when Shanahan will host No. 3 Upper Perkiomen, a 3-0 winner over Wissahickon Thursday.
“It almost makes me want to cry, and I just might,” said Roselli. “It feels awesome. We’ve been thisclose a few times, but couldn’t get over the hump. The last time we got close, three years ago, was even against this team, and we lost in overtime. So to know we finally did it is a great feeling.”
For the most part, the Magic controlled possessions in the early going, but neither team was getting too much pressure inside the circle. Ten minutes had passed before either team even forced a penalty corner. But Shanahan made good on that first opportunity.
Katie Keating put the ball in play on the insert, and the Eagles moved it towards the cage. The Mount defense did a good job holding off a shot until Lauren Bradley made a pass across the front of the cage, where Angelina Luongo was waiting for the easy tap in.
“We talked about our passing after Tuesday’s game, where we weren’t doing a very good job passing,” said Roselli. “We were carrying too long, and I knew that with the speed of Mount, we’d be getting doubled and tripled if we hung on to the ball too long. I thought we did a very nice job passing the ball today.”
Not quite ten minutes later, Mount got its first corner of the game, and like Shanahan, took advantage, with Kelly Mouret feeding Megan Maransky for the equalizer.
“Our corners have been solid all year,” said Magic coach Sue Wentzel. “But for whatever reason, after that one, we just seemed to struggle finishing. We’d get in close and not seal the deal.”
Still tied at one apiece midway through the second half, Shanahan was awarded a corner, its first of the half. Once again, the Eagles took advantage. This time, Darby Whalen took a shot in a crowd. Mount goalie Alyssa Brachelli got a foot on it, but Luongo took the rebound and tapped it in for what would end up as the game winner.
“I noticed on our first couple of corners that I was able to get open on the post,” said Luongo. “So I made my way to the post, saw the ball coming my way and put it in. Didn’t know it was going to be the winner, but it still felt really good. It is an incredible feeling to know we are going to states, and still have a shot to win a district title.”
Mount was not done in any way shape or form, and with time running out on them, played with a serious sense of urgency. With around seven minutes to play, the Magic got in tight, and started peppering Shanahan goalie with shots. Leppert was unfazed, making a couple of beautiful saves before the Eagles cleared the ball from the circle.
“She is going to make some incredible plays for us the next couple of years,” said Roselli. “And beyond. She is going to be a key player on a college team down the road.”
It was a whole different atmosphere for Leppert than it was in Tuesday night’s win over Pope John Paul II, when the ball was rarely within 25 yards of her. Leppert had just one first-half save Tuesday. Against Mount, it was 14.
“Mount is a very good team, but so are we,” said Leppert. “It helps your game when you know that we all have each other’s backs. I knew coming in that this was going to be a tough game. So I just tried to pick my intensity up in warm-ups and get my focus. My teammates are like my family. It is great to know we are going to keep playing on together.”
Mount had one last gasp before the Eagles could relax and celebrate, forcing a corner as time expired. The corner was played to its completion as a score would send the game to overtime, but the shot was wide, and Shanahan was the winner.
Shanahan is now the highest remaining seed in the tournament, as top-seeded Radnor was bitten by the upset bug, falling 3-0 to No. 9 Villa Maria. A District 1 championship is now just two wins away.
“One game at a time is all we can do,” said Roselli. “We’ll celebrate this one for tonight, then get ready for the next one. This will be a good week.”
Mount isn’t done yet either. They can still make it to the state tournament, but will now have to win two play-back games. Up first is Wissahickon.
“We’ve had a lot of young players really step up this season, and we will carry that into next year,” said Wentzel. “This is a strong team. We’ll keep pushing and hopefully get ourselves into states.”
Mount St. Joseph 1 0 –1
Bishop Shanahan 1 1 –2
Goalie Saves: Brachelli (MSJ) 7, Leppert (BS) 14
Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page