IMMACULATA, PA –In a rematch of last year’s PAISAA final, the No. 3 seed Springside Chestnut Hill Blue Devils defeated the No. 5 seed Hill School 3-1 to retain their PAISAA championship.
Despite the similar result, this is a much different SCH team from a year ago. They had to battle and rally around unexpected sources to earn their second title in as many years.
2018 PAISAA Champions - Springside Chestnut Hill Academy - PSD Photo by James Williamson
“The boys worked tremendously hard to get to this point. We had to overcome a lot in terms of injuries over the course of the year. We had ten big injuries where guys were out substantial amounts of time, concussions, ACLs, ankles, anything, you name it, we had it,” said Springside Chestnut Hill head coach, Brian Zalasky. “So, we had a lot of young guys step up and to repeat is an unbelievable experience and there’s nothing really else to say beyond that.”
It was a frigid night at Immaculata University and one that got off to a slow start. With 22:41 remaining in the first half, the lights at Immaculata cut out leading to a twenty-minute delay as officials and stadium crew frantically tried to get the lights back on. Shortly after the delay, Hill would get on the board with 15:31 remaining as Noah Toole snuck one underneath the outstretched arms of the SCH goalie to give his team the 1-0 lead.
Hill went into the half with the single goal lead, but SCH was unshaken. Had it not been for a rough stretch of luck in the first half, the Blue Devils could have had complete control of the game.
“The feeling of the team (at the half) was that we hit three cross bars in the first half, so it’s not like it was a completely dead half,” said Springside Chestnut Hill’s Philip Burkhardt. “We had our chances and we knew at one point it was just going to come. Once we got that first one, we knew we were going to get another and another and another after that and win this game.”
The Blue Devils found themselves in a position they were all too familiar with. Of their 45 goals on the season, 28 had come in the second half and another three in overtime. This was a team built for the second half and they certainly showed it in the finals.
Once the second half was underway, it was all Springside. With 18:19 remaining, the Blue Devils evened the score thanks to a goal from Peter Kapp.
“I had just switched over to the right side of the field. I usually play left wing back and Matt was coming off for a second, so I switched over to right side,” said Springside Chestnut Hill's Peter Kapp. “Our keeper booted it up the field off the ground and Dane Harmaty flicked it on between two defenders and I just sort of anticipated it as it was coming to his head, started running, hit the line right as it came through, tapped it forward with my head and had it right on my right foot to finish.”
Less than nine minutes later, Burkhardt would find the back of the net to give SCH the lead and the eventual win.
“It was a shot from our forward, Dane Harmaty, he was able to cut it in on his left foot and tried to bend it around, but the keeper couldn’t really see it. He made a good save and then (Burkhardt) just followed it in,” said Zalasky. “At that point, it was almost cathartic because we had so much in the first half not go our way and then to get a lucky bounce and see it go in was really nice.”
Burkhardt would add another goal with 5:17 remaining to give him 21 goals on the season, an impressive feat considering it’s only a 22-game season. This was a huge moment for Burkhardt as he came into the season wanting to prove himself as a player.
“This senior year, I feel like I’ve had a chip on my shoulder coming off last year. I know I had a good season, but just want to keep getting better every day,” said Burkhardt. “Finishing these two (goals) is another absolutely amazing feeling and to do it in front of the entire school, I don’t think there’s any better it can get.”
Meanwhile, Kapp, who was playing the last game of his soccer career, was happy to get the storybook ending he had always dreamed of.
“This is the perfect way I wanted to go out. Score a big goal, play my heart out, and win the game, get the result. It feels amazing,” said Kapp. “I was just telling my parents about how great it felt last year and how much I wanted it this year. It’s amazing.”
This is SCH’s second title in just three years since Zalasky took over as head coach. His senior players are sad to go, but they know the program is in good hands.
“(Coach) Z’s got a really bright future ahead of him. He’s done amazing things with this team in just three short years,” said Kapp. “He started with a team that was fighting every practice and built a back-to-back state champion. So, he’s got a really bright future ahead of him with some really young guys.”
This Blue Devils squad had an impressive number of underclassmen play major minutes in the PAISAA championship. They may already have two championships, but it doesn’t look like SCH is going to stop winning anytime soon.
“The fact that we had four freshmen and two sophomores out on that field for a lot of the evening tonight, in a state championship game, I think that says a lot,” said Zalasky. “I’m looking forward to working with them in the offseason and seeing how they grow both physically and emotionally and mentally and just keep climbing that mountain.”