John Knebels

Losing hurts. There’s no way to get around it.

In soccer, it arguably hurts a little more than other sports. Because of the nature of the game, all it takes is for one team to benefit from a fortuitous roll while the other squad laments a sure shot that found the post instead of twine. Instead of a 1-0 win, you get a 1-0 loss.

Ouch.

On Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Archbishop Ryan, the Catholic League boys’ soccer semifinals featured each of the top four regular-season finishers duking it out on a chilly late afternoon through early evening, with the winners receiving an invitation to Sunday’s Catholic League championship at Northeast High School.

The winners were Roman Catholic and Archbishop Wood. Which makes St. Joseph’s Prep and La Salle the dreaded runners up.

Let the tears begin.

“It was so difficult to take personally because I knew it would be the last time I would ever play for the Prep,” said Hawks senior Evan Filak. “It was difficult for the team as a whole because we worked so hard since January for this, but it didn’t happen in the end.”

The four-seed Prep lost to top-seed Roman Catholic, 3-0. The Hawks fell behind 2-0 in the first half and were unable to garner meaningful momentum before the Cahillites clinched the victory and cemented their fourth consecutive visit to the PCL final, winning in 2015 and losing to La Salle the past two seasons.

“Roman was a very talented team,” said Prep senior Charlie Falcone. “It was an extremely tough loss, but the program has a very bright future.”

Prep senior goalie Aidan Hartey was asked to reach for a positive.

“It hurts really bad,” said Hartey. “It’s hard to believe that my high school soccer career is over. The bright spot I can think of is being able to be a part of Prep soccer. The program means a lot to me, and I can’t say enough about my coaches.”

Filak agreed.

“It was a fantastic season,” said Filak. “We had the best record this school has seen in a while in the PCL, and we should be proud of that. We never gave up and created memories with each other that will last for the rest of our lives, despite the loss.”

La Salle’s loss probably stung even more. The three-seed Explorers were the two-time defending champions and didn’t even allow Wood to score a goal in regulation.

Unfortunately for them, however, the Explorers were unable to solve the puzzle that is first-team All-Catholic goalie Connor Ford.

After two sudden-death overtime periods kept zeroes on the scoreboard, the two-seed Vikings outscored the Explorers by 4-1 in penalty kicks.

“The hardest part about losing is the realization that this team will never play together again,” said La Salle senior Cole Hammel. “We had overcome a lot this year, pushing past losses that took us out of the picture of a PCL championship in a lot of teams’ minds.

“I think this season showed the younger guys that they have what it takes to win in this league. We took a Wood team to penalty kicks that initially bested us 4-0 in the regular season, and I think that was one of those minor victories that people fail to see just because we lost the game.

“Losing this year just woke up a team next year that won’t be satisfied with almost making a championship. They are going to come out ready to work, and I’m excited to see what happens with the returning pieces that they will have.”

Despite what it said on the scoresheet, it appears that both the Prep and La Salle ended up being winners because of the way they handled defeat. That, too, is the mark of a champion.

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John Knebels can be reached at jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.