Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert & John Knebels
By: John Knebels
ROYERSFORD, PA – When Archbishop Wood takes the field in the PIAA Class 3A state championship soccer final against Hampton High in Hershey tomorrow night, the Vikings will represent the Philadelphia Catholic League’s last hope of capturing a state title.
No pressure or anything . . .
Actually, the red-hot Vikings don’t mind their situation. If anything, they are thankful that they shook off a disappointing PCL first-round playoff loss to Lansdale Catholic and made the most of their opportunities ever since, winning four straight.
“We are thankful to Lansdale Catholic,” said Wood coach Hugh Kelly. “We spent a lot of time talking about that game and ways we could have and should have played better, and we all have bought in. But Lansdale Catholic came not just to play that day; they came to win that day. So hats off to them.”
In the state semifinal against Bishop Shanahan Tuesday night, the Vikings’ lone goal by senior CJ Clyde stood up behind a staunch defense and solid goaltending. Wood had several other chances stymied by Shanahan’s netminder.
“Every game at this level is a formidable task,” said Kelly. “The talent is strong top to bottom.”
Two other PCL teams were hoping to advance to the state finals, but staunch competitors had other plans.
At Methacton High School, Archbishop Ryan’s girls dropped a heart-breaking 2-1 decision against Radnor on a late second-half goal. Trailing 1-0 at half, the Ragdolls had tied the game at 1-1 on a goal by senior Rebecca Dalton with 14 minutes remaining in regulation.
“I honestly have no regrets from this season,” said Ryan senior Kaitlyn Brace, who next year will play at Chestnut Hill College. “Each player got better every game. It felt good to beat talented non-conference teams that we usually come up short against.
“Unfortunately, our nerves got the best of all us during the PCL championship (against Archbishop Wood) and it wasn’t the outcome we desired, but we took that anger to states and that’s how we got so far in the state tournament. It stinks to lose in the last two minutes of the state semifinal, but It’s so hard to be upset because it was one of the best games of soccer we played this year.
“Each person left everything out on the field, it just didn’t go our way in the end. You can’t win them all. We went undefeated in the PCL and had a great season.”
Simultaneously, La Salle was ousted by Conestoga, 3-0, in the PIAA Class 4A state semifinal at Spring-Ford High School. The Pioneers grabbed a 2-0 lead by halftime and withstood some flurries by the Explorers in the second half before clinching the win with a third goal.
“This program means a lot to me,” said La Salle senior Sean Jennings, this year’s PCL MVP. “These are all my brothers, and I love them.”