PHILADELPHIA –The skies were clear, and the weather was cool for the start of the girls’ soccer Philadelphia Catholic League semi-finals as No. 3 seed Little Flower faced off against No. 2 seed Lansdale Catholic, while No. 1 seed Archbishop Ryan took on No. 4 seed Archbishop Wood.
The hills of Archbishop Ryan high school were packed with parents and students alike, ready to cheer their girls on to victory.
Lansdale and Little Flower faced off in the early action, with the Crusaders earning the 2-1 victory to advance to their fourth straight PCL Championship. It was a back and forth contest for the majority of the game’s opening half as both teams would exchange possessions with very little being generated on offense.
Lansdale really started putting pressure on Little Flower with ten minutes remaining, consistently maintaining the ball and giving up very little to Little Flower. After a header on an inbounds kick just managed to roll over the top of the goal, it seemed like these two teams were going to go into the half scoreless. With 2:32 remaining in the half, Kelly Gillen managed to fight her way through the scrum to get her foot in on a corner kick and tap the ball in to give Lansdale the 1-0 lead just before halftime.
Video by James Williamson - Edited by Austin Ampeloquio
The second half would follow the same script as the first with both teams struggling to generate offense until the final ten minutes of the half. With 9:50 remaining in play, Maura Kilkenny took a long free kick, looking for anyone to hopefully get a touch on in, but actually ended up tying the game at one goal apiece.
“I just kind of lined it up, I was looking for an open player and I just shot it,” said Kilkenny. “I just kicked it and I think Abby Galaska, I’m pretty sure she touched it in, but I’m not one hundred percent sure. It just kind of went in.”
Little Flower wouldn’t have much time to celebrate their goal, as Lansdale would retake the lead less than two minutes later off the foot of Kristina Finkelstein.
“It was a corner, and we’re always practicing set pieces, so I just knew I had to get a piece,” said Finkelstein. “I saw it slip by the goalie’s hands and I just knew I had to get it in with whatever I could.”
With that goal, Lansdale punched their ticket to yet another PCL Championship. According to first year head coach, Bree Benedict, it’s all because of their set pieces and corner kicks.
“We’ve been working on corner kicks almost every single day at practice for about an hour so it’s just those corner kicks and set pieces. We used to have all these special plays and they didn’t work, so we just go in and win the ball and put it in the back of the net.”
Little Flower head coach, Markos Pittaoulis, was quick to admit his team allowed Lansdale to dictate the flow of the game, which is a major reason why their season is ending early.
“We didn’t even play our game, that’s the main thing. This was not our style of game. Our style is to start passing the ball to each other and gather the whole team up. We played their style, kick around. It’s a heart breaker,” said Pittaoulis.
Lansdale can celebrate for now, but they have got some work ahead if they want to avenge last season’s disappointing loss in the PCL Championship.
LC vs. LF PCL Semifinal - Photos by Kathy Leister
“We always talk about, there’s three ways to break down a team, you either go through them, around them, or over them, so depending on which guy we get here, we’ll have to decide on how were going to break them down,” said Benedict.
As dusk faded into night, the early game gave way to the next match up, the battle of the Archbishops, Ryan vs. Wood.
It was an uneventful first half as neither team could create any separation. Ryan would have a couple opportunities on some breakaways, but they all came up empty. Meanwhile, Wood found some success when they were able to maintain possession, but the moments of success were few and far between. As a whole, Wood underperformed in the first half.
“It’s my first year here, I don’t know if it’s the playoff atmosphere, I’m not sure because over the last three or four games we were playing some of the best soccer I’ve seen in the Catholic League,” said Archbishop Wood head coach, Tom DeGeorge. “Felt the first twenty minutes we came out flat and in order to win playoff games, you can’t give away minutes. I thought we gave away the first twenty minutes.”
Video by James Williamson - Edited by Austin Ampeloquio
Once the second half opened up, it did not take long for Archbishop Ryan to take the 1-0 as Gianna Monaco would score with 31:30 remaining.
“The ball came from the center mid fielder into our forward’s feet, one touch on a through ball to the other forward and Gianna went in on a breakaway and, just clinical, passed it into the side net,” said Archbishop Ryan head coach, Jonathan Geist.
Wood would find themselves in a golden opportunity to tie the game after the goal as Ryan struggled switching from offense to defense and could not stop fouling in transition.
“We got a little frantic. Girls were trying to win the game on every single play as opposed to, if the girl’s going negative, just letting them know she’s there and letting her go negative. You don’t need to run up the girl’s back,” said Geist. “We gave up too many fouls, we’ll address that tomorrow at practice and at training. It’s a learning experience, we’ve got a bunch of younger girls on the team, so it’s a good opportunity for them to grow as players.”
Unfortunately for Wood, they would fail to turn their opportunities into goals as a few corners and free kicks just narrowly missed the goal.
“I think it was a free kick, we swung in from the far post, I think it might’ve skimmed one of the girls’ heads and went out of bounds,” said DeGeorge. “And then I think right after that, there was a mix up in the box, girl came in, hit the cross bar, and then the next thing you know, a minute later they go down and score. I thought that was the changing point in the whole game.”
Immediately after Wood’s missed opportunity, Ryan would take the two goal advantage thanks to the foot of freshman Keri Gontz.
“The ball came in from Gianna and I saw a girl coming and I hit it, I had to take a touch first, my team was encouraging me to shoot, so I took the touch and shot it and it went in,” said Gontz.
Ryan would not afford Wood another scoring opportunity as they secured the 2-0 victory to earn a trip back to the PCL Championship to defend their title against Lansdale Catholic.
While this may be a disappointing end to their season, DeGeroge is confident his program has a bright future ahead.
“The positives are tons of young kids coming in, a great atmosphere, the seniors really set the leg work, you can tell a lot of people want to be a part of this program. It has a good history of being here. We’re looking forward to moving forward with this. We’ve got a lot of girls, new girls, who are interested in coming to the school, so we’re going to do some good stuff here,” said DeGeorge.
Despite winning a championship last year, Geist, believes this title would be extra special considering his entirely new group of girls.
“It would mean a lot to me. I was here for the last run that they had. Last year was a great win, a great group of girls, but to do it with a new group of girls, a whole new set, that are four freshmen playing some quality time, a bunch of sophomores a bunch of juniors, the senior leadership on the team has been great, so it would mean a lot for this group of girls,” said Geist.
No. 1 seed Archbishop Ryan will now face off against No. 2 seed Lansdale Catholic in a rematch of last year’s PCL Championship. Ryan defeated Lansdale 1-0 in last year’s championship game. The game will be held at the Northeast Supersite this Sunday at 1 p.m..