By DICK VANO’LINDA
When the final horn sounded on Thursday afternoon, York Catholic’s players walked slowly off their home soccer field.
There were tears in the eyes of some of the white-clad players following a 3-2 loss to Tulpehocken.
For the third straight year, the Berks County team got the best of the Fighting Irish in the District 3 Class A playoffs.
York Catholic was determined that this year would be different, but Tulpehocken used Danielle Bressler’s game-winning goal with 15:01 remaining in the match to bring the Fighting Irish season to a close.
“Last year, we were the underdog, but this year, we felt we were evenly matched,” York Catholic goalie Hannah Laslo said. “Our season came up short, but we lost to a great team.”
Laslo and her teammates were hoping that playing in familiar surroundings could help them take down Tulpehocken and move into the semifinals.
“We’ve played so many matches on this field,” Laslo said. “Other teams from (other) sports were here today (including the football team, which walked over after practice and started a ‘Here We Go Irish, Here We Go’ cheer), and family and friends were here.”
Tulpehocken, which also had a good-sized following on hand, never trailed in the match.
The Trojans led 1-0 and 2-1, but York Catholic draw even both times on Liz Johnson goals. The Fighting Irish, though, weren’t able to match Bressler’s goal.
Tulpehocken head coach Dave Zerbe wasn’t surprised that just one goal separated the teams for the second year in a row.
“I knew it would be a tough battle,” Zerbe said. “They always come to play hard. That No. 15 (Johnson) is a playmaker. We didn’t do well against her, but she’s tough.”
Zerbe was also impressed with York Catholic sophomore forward Melanie Matthews, who assisted on Johnson’s second goal and set up other scoring opportunities with moves and speed on the outside.
“No. 1 (Matthews) was a surprise,” Zerbe said. “I wasn’t prepared for her. We had to adjust on the fly.”
Zerbe’s team received an outstanding performance from Taylor Boyer, who scored her team’s second goal and made a crossing pass to Bressler, who booted the ball into the left-hander corner of the net.
“It comes down to they convert chances when they get them, and we don’t,” York Catholic head coach Ryan Luckman said. “Sometimes, we don’t get chances because of the great defense they play. On one play today, they blocked Lizzie (Johnson), who had a wide-open goal.”
Luckman was pleased with the way his team responded to Tulpehocken’s first two goals.
“I enjoyed the way we answered,” he said. “The girls kept their heads up, and they kept going and kept battling. For the most part this season, we’ve shown great heart. We just can’t get over the Tulpehocken hump,”
Despite the disappointing loss to the defending district champions, the Fighting Irish will be able to look back on a highly successful season, during which they won 13 games and captured the York-Adams Division III title.
The 2015 York Catholic team will be a veteran one, since 18 of the 22 players will be eligible to play again next fall. Laslo, Courtney Sheckells, Patricia Mezza and Bernardine Mann are the team’s seniors.
“The sky’s the limit for this team,” said Laslo, who prevented a fourth Tulpehocken goal by diving to her left and swatting the ball outside the post and over the end line. “The thing I’ll remember the most is coming together, not just as a team, but as a bunch of sisters. I felt like the rest of the team and I could go home and have a family dinner. More than losing teammates, it’s losing sisters for next year.”
— Reach Dick VanOlinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.