By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T

Discuss the most nerve-wracking position in any sport and be prepared to hear someone insist that being a soccer goalie supersedes anything else. Standing all alone most of the time. Responsible to keep a round object roughly the size of a basketball from entering a net that measures eight feet high and 24 feet wide – and in a sport where allowing two goals per game pretty much guarantees that your team won’t win very often.

Alyson Hop knows all about this. She is the senior goalie for Archbishop Wood’s girls’ soccer team, and for the past two months she has been one of the pivotal components for a team whose goal has been to win the coveted Catholic League championship.

On a cold and somewhat miserable evening Nov. 4, Archbishop Wood turned that objective into a reality when it edged Lansdale Catholic 2-1 at Archbishop Ryan High School’s field. Without several key saves by Hop, Lansdale Catholic undoubtedly would have been victorious.

“The game was so close and every play was important,” said Hop, a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Penndel.

While Lansdale Catholic goalie Mackenzie Pinto allowed the Crusaders to keep an early deficit (off a goal by Rachel Friend early in the first half) at only 1-0 by making some impressive saves, Hop kept Lansdale Catholic at bay until Katie O’Kane’s goal about two minutes into the second half.

Although Lansdale Catholic, whose 17-2-2 overall record includes one win and two losses against the Vikings, controlled play for the rest of regulation, nothing was particularly noteworthy until an acrobatic leap by Hop kept the game tied with three minutes remaining.

In overtime, Hop again provided a key stop, and that set the stage for sophomore Kelsey Celline’s season-defining highlight, which is saying something considering she has contributed 18 goals this fall.

Just after the eight-minute mark, Nicole Ahrens passed the ball to Celline, whose shot eluded Lansdale Catholic’s collective defense and secured Wood’s first title since 1999 and fourth under the tutelage of coach Bill Cappo.

“This is something I’ll never forget,” said Celline, whose goal and assist had helped the Vikings beat previously undefeated Cardinal Dougherty 2-0 in the semifinals.

Wood senior standout Samantha Greenfield was visibly ecstatic.

“This is what the entire season came down to – who would score the last goal,” said Greenfield. “We did everything we could. We never stopped working hard and never stopped believing in ourselves.”

For Lansdale Catholic, the loss was extremely difficult to digest. An injury to star scorer Megan Poiesz in a semifinal win over Archbishop Ryan limited the Crusaders’ offensive attack, yet they still had several chances to earn their first-ever Catholic League title despite having joined the league in 2008.

“We did everything except score the game-winning goal,” said Vikings coach Tom O’Donnell. “I thought it would work out for us, but Wood played well and should be congratulated.”

O’Donnell was one of many who made sure to compliment both goalies.

“They both made some real nice saves,” he said.

As Alyson Hop could tell you, when you’re a soccer goalie, making saves is really all that matters.