Talk about a scare.
In the first round of the Philadelphia Catholic League girls’ soccer playoffs Thursday afternoon, Oct. 21, three-seed Lansdale Catholic hosted six-seed Cardinal O’Hara. At 5-2-1 in the PCL, the Crusaders faced an O’Hara team that had finished a mirror opposite at 2-5-1 and had lost to LC, 3-1, during the regular season.
After two halves and two overtime periods, however, neither team had found a way to score, thus necessitating the dreaded penalty kicks to decide who would advance to the league semifinals.
In a tense competition, Lansdale Catholic outlasted the stubborn Lions by 4-3 in PKs, and the Crusaders will face two-seed Archbishop Wood Oct. 26 at RAMP Playground for the right to reach the finals scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 30 at the same location.
LC will try to avenge a 5-2 loss to Wood back on Oct. 7. The Vikings will carry a 7-0-1 PCL record into the semis.
“It was really important to us to send our senior out with a win on our home field,” said Lansdale Catholic coach Bree Benedict. “Lauren Edwards has given everything to this program. She has won every team trophy a high school player could win – PCL, district, and state. She was a starter and essential member on all these teams.
“Eddy (her nickname on LC’s team) and I came to LC together her freshman year. It has been a pleasure and an honor to coach her. She’s a special player whose heart often outmatches any team we play. It meant a lot to send her off the Lansdale Catholic field with such an exciting win.”
Although Lansdale Catholic came close to scoring on several occasions, Cardinal O’Hara nearly stole the victory late in the second half, but LC goalie Cassidy Saulino saved the day. In overtime, LC was unable to convert a penalty kick.
In the best-of-five penalty kicks, Benedict inserted Olivia Boccella, who usually plays at center-midfield, in net.
“She’s aggressive,” said Benedict. “She does a nice job anticipating where the shots will go.”
While Boccella only surrendered two of O’Hara’s five attempts, teammates Delaney King, Ava Mercier, Nicole Mezzatesta, and Mia Norbury connected for a 4-3 win.
Later, Benedict raved about Boccella’s flexibility.
“Olivia Boccella is a total gamer,” said Benedict. “She has literally never played goalkeeper (in a varsity game). I looked at her and said we need you to make one stop. She fired back, ‘I got it,’ and she did. We play her all over the field because of her energy and tough tackling. She also serves great set pieces.”
According to Benedict, Mercier and Mezzatesta “easily had their best games of the season.” She credited King for “setting the tone early for the shootout, burying her shot into the corner with authority.”
Mia Norbury was LC’s fifth kicker, and her goal would prove to be the game-winner as O’Hara followed by shooting wide in its fifth and final attempt.
“Mia wasn’t always in the line-up, but she has such moxie that I knew she would step up,” said Benedict. “She did. She’s a sophomore and plays every minute pretty much. She does whatever is needed for the team.”
In the other playoff contest, after two halves and two overtimes resulted in a 1-1 tie, five-seed St. Hubert defeated four-seed Archbishop Carroll in penalty kicks, 3-0. The win was Hubert’s second against Carroll this fall.
The Bambies, who tied the game late in the second half on a goal by sophomore Loie D’Andrea, will face undefeated Archbishop Ryan in the semifinals Oct. 26 at RAMP Playground. During the regular season, the Ragdolls defeated Hubert, 3-0.
In league play, Ryan has outscored its competition by 32-1, the only goal coming from Archbishop Wood in a 1-1, double overtime tie on Sept. 25.
“The game was definitely really tense,” said Hubert senior Gianna Grassifulli, who converted the first penalty kick. “They are a good team and winning the way we did was very nerve racking, but it also felt really great when the last penalty kick went in.
“It’s a great feeling winning a playoff game and being able to compete in the next round. Playoffs are always going to be a fight no matter the round you are in, and we were able to stay together through the whole game.”
John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.
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