HERSHEY -- It looked like a familiar story line for the York Catholic girls' soccer team during the first 40 minutes of Monday night's District 3-A semifinal at Hershey High School against Tulpehocken.
It was just a year earlier when the Trojans held the Irish without a shot on goal en route to a semifinal victory.
Over the first half of Monday's battle, Coach Ryan Luckman's squad was similarly without a scoring chance. The Irish, however, started to generate some offense after the intermission on a cold autumn night.
First came a shot by Natasha Vadas about 10 minutes into the second half. After another, albeit less dangerous, shot was recorded moments later, it was Vadas who finally broke one through for her club with 12:11 left to tie the contest at 1-1.
York Catholic was riding sky high at that point. But, in a town with a handful of roller-coasters, it didn't take long for things to fall back to earth.
Just 55 seconds after Vadas evened up the contest, Tulpehocken's Mariah Troutman cashed in on a prime scoring chance to send the Trojans into the district final after a 2-1 triumph.
"We talked as a quick note as a coaching staff (after Vadas' goal)," Luckman said. "Do we want to go back to the defensive formation that we normally play and just try to ride it out and see if we can get something or stay aggressive. The fear was that if we stayed aggressive that they were going dominate the midfield and just take it to us the last 12 minutes. But now we look back and we knew the long throw was coming, they got a nice flick on it and unfortunately we just weren't right next to the girl to make it a more difficult shot. She had time to step into it. That's a momentum killer."
Unlike last year, when the Irish rebounded after a 3-0 loss to the Trojans in the semifinals to claim a berth into the PIAA state tournament, only two teams advance to states this season. Thus the Irish's season is complete after a successful 13-5 mark.
"The girls played great," Luckman said. "They did everything that was asked, we just lost to a better team today, unfortunately."
There were some marked differences between the play of the teams this year compared to last. Perhaps the most important of all was 6-foot goalie Hannah Laslo. The Irish standout was tested numerous times by a Trojan attack that peppered 12 shots on goal in addition to probably a dozen or more close calls.
"She made great save after great save," Luckman said. "The first goal was a little mistake on our part. And the second one, the girl knocked it off the post. There's world-class keepers that couldn't stop that. I'm just proud of the way she played."
Luckman gave credit to Laslo (10 saves) for helping to settle down his young team with a big catch on Tulpehocken's first corner kick of the night in the 12th minute. The Irish coaches were worried about the Trojans' corners coming into the contest, especially after Luckman saw them score all three goals on corners in a victory over Camp Hill last Thursday.
"We were very nervous about their corners," Luckman said. "I think when she caught that first one, that set the tone for the team."
Another key difference was the ability of the Irish to actually generate offense, which was aided by a shift up from the team's normal defensive alignment.
"I remember last year at halftime saying 'let's get the ball past midfield and see what we can do,'" Luckman said. "In the first half this year, we got a few offensive switches that at least led to a few offensive thrusts."
The final difference was definitely Vadas' tally that set off a big celebration on the field for the Irish side. Elizabeth Johnson took advantage of a rare defensive miscue by the Trojans to dribble into the box, where she found Vadas open near the left post.
"The (Tulpehocken) girl misplayed the ball, but Natasha was able to come to the open space on the opposite side of the field where the ball was," Luckman said.
All it took was one turn back down the field for a quick and potent Trojan side to answer back.
"They got it to the corner and had a cross in," Laslo said. "It bounced off a couple heads and the girl (Troutman) got a really hard drive into the far post on me. It was a nice shot."
Troutman earned an assist on her team's first goal when she set up Alexis Troutman to put the Trojans ahead with 7:30 left in the first half.
Tulpehocken, who will face Halifax in the championship game Thursday, outshot the Irish 12-3 and held a 7-0 edge in corners.
OTHER GIRLS' SOCCER
HALIFAX 3, FAIRFIELD 2: At Manchester, Fairfield's 2013 girls' soccer season came to an end with a loss to Halifax in a District 3-A semifinal at Northeastern High.
Hannah Logue scored both Fairfield goals, while Sarah Heinbaugh and Annie Roberts provided assists. Katlyn Krietz made 17 saves in a losing cause. Halifax dominated the statistics, outshooting Fairfield, 17-7, while holding a 10-4 edge in penalty corners.
Fairfield, the No. 4 seed, finished at 14-4-0. Halifax (20-0-0), the No. 1 seed, moves on to face No. 2 seed Tulpehocken in the District 3-A title match at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Hersheypark Stadium.
-- Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.