You can't start a state playoff game better than the York Catholic girls' soccer team did on Tuesday night at Scranton High School.
It took the Fighting Irish all of 19 seconds to put their stamp on their PIAA Class A first-round match against District 2 champion Lakeland, one that turned into a 4-1 victory for the York County squad.
Senior Liz Johnson stole the ball right off the kickoff and then played a tremendous ball into the center from the right side, connecting with Lisa Casagrande, who deposited it into the back of the net to give York Catholic the 1-0 lead in the opening minute. From that point on, the Fighting Irish controlled the game, despite having to wait a bit longer to gain the insurance markers.
"We definitely play well when we're up front," York Catholic head coach Joe Nattans said in a phone interview. "So, we like to attack right from the opening whistle, and the other team had the tap. We took the ball off of their tap right down the field and scored."
The Fighting Irish (15-5) had a few other strong chances in the first half to extend their 1-0 advantage, but couldn't connect quite the way they did in the opening minute. The result was just a 1-0 lead after the opening 40 minutes, even though York Catholic carried much of the play.
The Fighting Irish picked up right where they left off to begin the second half, only this time, they slowed the game down. That provided them with better scoring chances, which they finally capitalized on in the 52nd minute, when Johnson buried a shot to put York Catholic ahead 2-0. A minute later, Melanie Matthews put the game to rest with her goal off an assist by Courtney Nattans, giving the Fighting Irish a 3-0 advantage, one that they knew the Chiefs (12-2) wouldn't overcome.
"Once that second goal goes in, we felt very confident that we were going to win with the way our defense was playing and we were not going to give up two goals," Joe Nattans said. "Then we got the third goal a minute after the second goal and that helped us really relax."
York Catholic did concede a goal in the 60th minute, but immediately responded with Courtney Nattans' tally, completing the scoring for the night.
The 4-1 victory was a huge bounce-back performance for the Fighting Irish, who dropped a 3-0 result to Trinity over the weekend in the District 3-A title game. Now, the team is riding high with momentum as it heads into Saturday's quarterfinal match against the winner of Warrior Run-Pine Grove game. That match was postponed because of inclement weather on Tuesday.
"We have full confidence, but we also know what's in front of us," Nattans said. "So, we're not going to be over-confident. We know every game as we go gets tougher. I think we're up to the challenge. I think we're a mature team, who knows what's in front of them."
OTHER PIAA GIRLS' SOCCER
Susquehannock 2, Central 1 (OT): At Hollidaysburg, the Warriors benefited from a Central own goal in the 82nd minute to prevail in their PIAA Class AA first-round match, 2-1.
Emily Landis was the player credited for Susquehannock with playing the ball into a dangerous area and having it redirect off the Central defender and into the net to end the match.
After the two sides played to a scoreless opening half, Maddy Mummert opened the game's scoring for the Warriors in the 66th minute. Landis was credited with an assist on the goal. Susquehannock was just minutes from advancing to the quarterfinals when Olivia Smith equalized with just two minutes to play in regulation, tying the game at 1-1 and sending it into extra time.
The Warriors (16-4-2) owned a 9-7 shot advantage over Central, as well as a 4-1 advantage in corners. Warriors goalkeeper Ashley Stone made seven saves in the game.
Susquehannock, the third-place team from District 3, will now take on District 10 runner-up Mercyhurst Prep in Saturday's quarterfinal matchup. Mercyhurst Prep advanced with a 1-0 victory over District 7 champion Mars.
District 6 champion Central suffered its first loss of the season and finished at 20-1.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.