Lansdale Catholic girls' soccer team celebrates taking home the program's first Philadelphia Catholic League Plaque in 1-0 victory vs. defending champion Archbishop Ryan - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
PHILADELPHIA –Years from now, ask any of the girls who scrambled around the net right before Lansdale Catholic edged Archbishop Ryan, 1-0, in Sunday afternoon’s Catholic League championship sudden-death overtime thriller at Northeast High School what they remember.
Their recall might be shady, because, well, it already is. The video replay indeed provides the true definition of chaos.
The only thing that matters, however, is that LC senior Sarah Fitzpatrick managed to push her right foot forward and literally tap a soccer ball just enough to send it over the goal line and ignite a celebration for the ages.
At long last, Lansdale Catholic had captured its first-ever Catholic League girls’ soccer championship. It also ended a three-game losing streak in the season’s marquee event, once to Archbishop Wood and twice to defending champion Archbishop Ryan.
But those ghosts of championships lost can now meander on their merry way. Be gone, spectral folks. Nothing to spook here.
“We made one goal before the season and that was to win the PCL,” said Lansdale Catholic senior Emily Schall. “Every day in practice we were so determined, and we just couldn’t stop working. We had no days off. We wanted this so bad. We had nothing left in us. We tried really hard. I am happier than I’ve every been.”
Neither team mustered many chances during a defense-dominated regulation. Ryan almost won the game late, but a close-in blast skimmed the crossbar to maintain goose eggs.
Then came the first sudden-death overtime period, and it only took three minutes and 32 seconds for Lansdale Catholic to reach nirvana.
A free kick resulted in a jumble of bodies doing anything humanly possible to either win the game or get the ball out of harm’s way. Viewed frame by frame, LC junior Kellie Gillen used her left thigh to push the play forward and maintain pressure. Gillen might have netted the game winner, but the airborne ball was clearly swatted away by the hand of a Ryan player, which escaped the officials’ vision.
Play continued. Then poised junior Crusader Julia Boccella bicycled a kick and fell down, followed by another bicycle kick by senior dynamo Caroline Cleary that moved the bouncing ball just inches away from the Ryan cage. That’s when Fitzpatrick’s heroic toe got involved, and Ryan’s goaltender, understandably out of position, was left helpless as the ball rolled into the back of the net.
“There weren’t many shooting opportunities for either side,” said Fitzpatrick, asked for what would be the first of umpteen times to describe the game winner. “We were all just trying to get a body part, just trying to get the ball in the net.
“It came right to me and I knew I had to get this in cause you don’t get many opportunities to score, especially in overtime. It was just a reflex. I did see an opening. I was like, ‘Wow. We just won the PCL.’”
Asked later to encompass what they were feeling in a few words, most LC players used the word “amazing.” This was the second time regular-season champion Ryan lost to a Catholic League opponent this year, and the second-place Crusaders, having bested the Ragdolls, 2-1, on September 20, were the culprit both times.
A Ryan team that averaged more than five goals per game was foiled by a suffocating defense and timely goaltending by senior Abigail Shuster.
“I don’t feel as much as they feel,” said a visibly ecstatic Shuster, looking over her right shoulder and smiling as she watched her teammates share the moment with fans in the stands. “I only transferred last year, so that’s their fourth year and this is my second. But I’m still as happy as I could ever be.”
After the festivities had tempered to a mere roar, Schall joined her family – father Gene, mom Carolyn, and younger sister Allison – for a quick impromptu interview. The parents talked about sacrifice of time and finances being more than worth the combined intangible and tangible price tags, and Emily thanked them on camera while Allison sheepishly dipped into her mom’s embrace.
Just one of countless snippets that helped paint an overtime masterpiece that will never be forgotten, even if the most important play of the game remains foggy, but in a weirdly beautiful way.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)