Rarely does a high school team in any sport travel 149 miles and feel like it’s right at home, especially when its opponent only had to travel six miles to the same state playoff contest.
Tuesday night’s PIAA Class A girls soccer match proved to be an exception. With goalkeeper Hannah Laslo in tow, York Catholic downed Bishop McCort 2-0 at Richland High School’s Herlinger Field.
Laslo – a sophomore for the Fighting Irish and former Richland student – was the reasoning for a groundswell of support from Richland students, who were treated to a victory by their adopted team from across the state.
“It was great and I hope the (Richland students) had a lot of fun,” York Catholic coach Ryan Luckman said. “They were respectful throughout. We weren’t expecting the turnout with the signs. They did great and Hannah must be really loved out here.”
For Laslo, who was also a key contributor to York Catholic’s basketball squad last season, the excitement of her homecoming was evident from the moment which she heard the news that the match against the Crimson Crushers was planted at her old stomping grounds.
“I basically passed out,” Laslo said of her reaction.
Even she didn’t expect the turnout of friends and former schoolmates situated behind the York Catholic bench on the chilly and windy evening.
“I thought there would be a couple of people but I didn’t expect to see this many here,” Laslo said.
The Fighting Irish, who are making their first trip to the PIAA tournament in girls soccer, netted their first goal in the 23rd minute when Natasha Vadas curled a shot from 25 yards away over Bishop McCort keeper Mackenzie Barbin.
Barbin, who also warded off a flurry of chances from York Catholic, stood tall following the goal, denying numerous chances from the Fighting Irish attack until intermission.
After a half of playing on its heels, Bishop McCort (12-8) pieced together a string of offensive chances early in the second half with Laslo weathering the attack that saw saves with varying degrees of difficulty.
A Laura Seitz shot off an indirect kick from 19 yards away served as Bishop McCort’s best opportunity at an equalizer during its run of chances.
“We definitely generated more offense than we have in a while,” Bishop McCort coach Rebekah Walter said. “More than we did in the D6 championship game, even. We played a really great team ... I’m just proud of my team.”
The insurance for the Fighting Irish (15-6) came in the 58th minute as Liz Johnson controlled the ball in the penalty area and skipped it across the turf past Barbin.
Through the remaining 22 minutes, both sides presented challenges to the keepers with no change to the score.
While the York Catholic victory triggered a celebration between the Fighting Irish players and Richland students, the loss by the Crimson Crushers allowed Walter a chance to reflect on what her squad had accomplished this season.
“We had a big goal this year to win District 6,” Walter said. “We accomplished that goal this year. I’m so proud of these girls that it’s unbelievable; every single one. To end this way, they played really great.”