By John Knebels
Sports Columnist

The two best teams were minutes away from facing each other.

On one side was favored Archbishop Wood, Warminster; on the other, underdog Lansdale Catholic. Just how much of an underdog was debatable.

But before the opening tap in the Catholic League girls’ soccer championship at Archbishop Ryan High School Nov. 3, it was clear that Lansdale Catholic would need to bring its best effort if it had any chance to dethrone a Vikings team that had defeated them in last year’s final.

Lansdale Catholic indeed brought forth its best effort. In the end, it wasn’t enough. {{more}}

“We knew they would be ready to play,” said Wood senior Rachel Friend, minutes after her Vikings emerged with a hard-fought 2-1 championship triumph. “They’re a very good team. They proved that during the season.”

Wood, the New York Yankees of Catholic League soccer (the Vikings now have 12 Catholic League titles in 22 trips to the final) fell behind 1-0 after an early goal by Lansdale Catholic star senior Megan Poiesz that was set up nicely off a pass from Bryn Wassel.

The momentum clearly belonged to a Lansdale Catholic team that desperately wanted to avenge a 2-1 overtime loss in last year’s final as well as a somewhat disheartening 2-1 loss to Wood during the regular season.

However, when you are rated first in the state by the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association, a 1-0 deficit isn’t exactly a time to panic. Still …

“We had to stay confident and play our game,” said Wood coach Bill Cappo, who found himself in the winner’s circle for the fifth time in the past nine seasons. “We were okay. We needed to make a big play.”

The Vikings have been consistently making big plays since opening the season with a non-league loss way back on Sept. 3. Since that loss to Central Bucks South, the Vikings have reeled off 20 consecutive wins. Their most difficult task was arguably against the Crusaders (14-3-3) in the final.

So when a tally by senior Nicole Ahrens eight minutes, 32 seconds later tied the contest at 1-1, the Vikings were breathing a little easier.

“It figured that one of us was going to win by one goal,” said Friend. “It was important to keep them from scoring before we could tie the game.”

As the second half neared a possible overtime, both teams orchestrated safe passes to prevent an odds-on rush. It was obvious the next goal would result in a championship celebration.

With 7:29 left in regulation, Friend took a pass from sophomore Jackie Pierson and sprinted down the left side. Her objective was to land the ball in the vicinity of the LC net and hope for the best. But when she unleashed a softer-than-usual shot toward the cage, it eluded the Crusaders’ goaltender and gave the Vikings their first lead of the night.

“[I was] just trying to make something happen,” said Friend, who also scored a late game-winner against LC in the regular season. “We didn’t want to go into overtime.”

Since both teams have already clinched a District 12 title (Wood in Class AAA; Lansdale Catholic in Class AA), a new challenge began on Tuesday, Nov. 9, as the PIAA state tournament commenced. At press time, Wood was scheduled to take on West Chester East and Lansdale Catholic was set to face Villa Maria Academy in round one.