IMMACULATA, PA -They say third time’s the charm and it certainly was for Episcopal Academy in this year’s PAISAA final. After falling just short in the previous two finals, number three seed Episcopal defeated the four seeded Baldwin school 4-3 in penalty kicks to finally secure the PAISAA championship.
“It was a tough game, both teams played very well today, and I think it could’ve gone either way,” said Episcopal head coach, Andy Fraggos. “I mean, it was 3-3 through two overtimes, so it was an exciting game for sure.”
(Edited by Austin Ampeloquio)
It was a heated contest between two of the state’s best independent schools. Baldwin, coming off an upset win over top seed William Penn Charter, was in the midst of one of their best seasons in school history and on the brink of their first championship. Meanwhile, Episcopal had just beaten the two seed, Germantown Academy, and wasn’t ready to go home with a loss in the PAISAA finals for a third year in a row. This was the third meeting between these two teams this season and it was one that would come down to the last kick of the game.
“They’re tough. It’s our third time playing them, we split them in the season. It was a tie game the entire game,” said Baldwin senior Gia Vicari. “It came down to PKs and they just got the better of us. I think it was a good battle the whole entire time and they’re a good team.”
The score was tied 3-3 through regulation and two overtime periods. Each team had already taken their first four penalty kicks and Baldwin held a 3-2 advantage.
“We don’t do PKs during the regular season, so that’s something we have to practice once PAISAA begins and that’s something we did every few sessions a week, kind of building up to this, hoping you don’t get there, but prepping for this moment if it happens,” said Fraggos. “We knew who our kickers were before we lined up and before we entered the day today just in case we got there.”
Episcopal’s Olivia Dirks then came in clutch for her team and slipped one past the goalie to even things up at three. Baldwin’s Alex Loomis would try to retake the lead but would find her shot quickly swatted away by Episcopal goal keeper Allie Bush. With their season hanging in the balance, Episcopal’s Maddie Loughead lined up to take her kick.
“Walking up, I was just trying to keep my mind blank and focus on doing it for the team and thinking about everyone else who’s supporting me and I kind of just went up there, waited for the whistle, and went for it,” said Loughead.
Loughead lined up for the kicked. She awaited the whistle. The moment it sounded, she went with her right and immediately found the back corner of the net, leaving the goalie diving at air. Within an instant, teammate and student alike swarmed their late game hero in celebration.
“Last year, PAISAA finals we lost to Springside Chestnut Hill and this year, many of our returners were part of that group and starters for that group last year. So, this is what they dreamt of this year, redeeming ourselves from last year,” said Fraggos. “They got a chance for it and a dramatic ending.”
This victory was three years in the making. Episcopal finally has their redemption after two failed trips to the finals and it’s all thanks to the right foot of Loughead.
“This is the best feeling. This is what I’ve been waiting four years for,” said Loughead. “We’ve been here for three years and we hadn’t won the championship yet, so it was a great way to end my senior year.”
Amidst the celebration, Baldwin agonized over defeat, a feeling Episcopal had been all too familiar with. Despite their heartbreaking loss, the Bears were proud of themselves and everything they had accomplished over the course of their historic season.
“We fought the whole time and got unlucky at the end,” said an emotional Vicari. “We missed a couple PKs, but we’re not disappointed with the loss. We had the best season we’ve ever had, and I think there’s something in that to be proud of.”
Vicari, who finished the game with all three of Baldwin’s goals in regulation, ends her career as the school’s all-time leading goal scorer. She was quick to deflect her success onto her teammates.
“It’s good, but I couldn’t do it without my team. They set me up for all the goals. I’m really grateful for them.”
Episcopal can now go into next season as the champions and prepare to build on their own successes.
“As we move into next season, we’re losing three key seniors on our field and we’re looking at who’s going to step up, but we’ve got girls waiting, wanting minutes right now,” said Fraggos. “So, the future’s looking pretty bright as well.”