There was one key word on the minds of York Catholic boys’ soccer coach Joe Nattans and his players Wednesday afternoon.
After back-to-back first-round District 3 exits by the Irish, this year’s club was more than a little determined to reverse that negative trend.
They were downright hungry.
That was bad news for visiting Lancaster County Christian in a District 3 Class 1-A quarterfinal contest.
The third-seeded Irish did exactly what they set out to do from the opening whistle. They won the 50-50 balls, ran up and through the middle and found the back of the net multiple times en route to a convincing 4-0 triumph.
York Catholic (14-5) now moves on to the semifinals against No. 2 seed Halifax (17-3), which earned a 1-0 double-overtime triumph over No. 7 seed Conestoga Christian (13-5-1) on Wednesday night. The site and time for Saturday's semifinal has yet to be determined.
“Coach’s message really resonated with us, especially with us seniors,” Irish midfielder Nick DeMarco said. “The last two years we got knocked out in the first round and that really left a sour taste in our mouths.”
DeMarco, who has been a key figure behind his team’s strong defense, took it a step further.
“We were really hungry,” he said.
Simple challenge: Not knowing much about Lancaster County Christian coming into the match, Nattans opted to put his focus on what his team needed to do to be successful. So Nattans, who is in his first year leading the boys' program after a successful stint as the girls' coach a few years ago, laid out a simple challenge.
“When we met before the game the message was simple,” he said. “Dominate. Dominate the balls in the air, dominate the 50-50 balls and dominate the shots. And I think we did that.”
Giving credit to league: Nattans gave credit to the York-Adams League and its tournament for helping to prepare his players for what they hope is a lengthy postseason run. Competitive games against Division III champ Biglerville, as well as Bermudian Springs and York High, helped raise the bar for the club, which plays at the lowest District 3 classification.
Even though the result was not what the Irish wanted (a 2-1 loss), their battle with Division I power South Western in the league playoffs was a strong test that. It proved that the Irish could play with pretty much all of the league’s top programs.
“I thought we played well,” Nattans said of his team’s battle against the Mustangs. “My opinion is that if we can play with those big schools then we should be able to play with every team in the 1-A bracket.”
State goal: Nattans and his team will find out if that’s the case in the semifinals. A victory there would assure the Irish of a PIAA berth. The top three teams in 1-A will make the state bracket.
That is certainly the goal for the Irish boys.
“Every game, everyone just fights together,” goalie Ethan Higgins said. “I think we all know what to do.”
Kyle Kim, Dylan Staub, Ben Bullen and Colin Smith scored for the Irish in Wednesday’s triumph. York Catholic held a decisive 14-2 edge in shots. DeMarco and Bryan Bullen tallied two assists each, while Higgins needed just two saves to preserve the shutout.
No. 6 seed Lancaster County Christian finished at 10-4.
Cumberland Valley 3, Dallastown 1: At Mechanicsburg, Jeri Myers' storied career as the Dallastown field hockey coach came to an end with a District 3 Class 3-A first-round loss. Myers leaves the Wildcats program with more than 500 wins. No. 11 seed Dallastown finishes 13-8. No. 6 seed Cumberland improved to 14-5.
New Oxford 2, Lampeter-Strasburg 1: At Millersville, the Colonials captured a District 3 Class 2-A first-round triumph, rallying from a 1-0 halftime deficit. No. 10 seed New Oxford improved to 13-6-1, while No. 7 seed L-S finished at 13-6. The Colonials advance to Saturday's quarterfinals vs. No 2 seed Palmyra (14-4-1), an 8-1 winner over No. 15 seed Conrad Weiser (9-6-1) on Wednesday. The site and time for Saturday's quarterfinal have not yet been set.
Northern York 4, South Western 2: At York Springs, Kat Study had a goal and an assist in a losing cause for the Mustangs in a District 3 Class 2-A opener. Anna Sprenkle also scored for the Mustangs, while Anna Simpson had an assist. No. 8 seed South Western finished at 13-7. Ninth-seeded Northern improved to 13-5-1.
ELCO 3, Eastern York 0: At Mount Joy, the Golden Knights saw their successful 2018 field hockey season come to an end with a District 3 Class 1-A first-round setback. No. 12 seed Eastern finished at 12-7. No. 5 seed ELCO improved to 15-3-2.
Boiling Springs 2, Littlestown 0: At York Springs, the ninth-seeded Lady Bolts fell to the No. 8 seed in a District 3 Class 1-A opener. Littlestown finished 13-6-1. Boiling Springs improved to 13-6.
Donegal 14, Susquehannock 0: At Millersville, the Warriors ran into a powerhouse in suffering a District 3 Class 2-A first-round loss. The No. 16 seed Warriors finished 8-10. No. 1 seed Donegal improved to 21-1.
Central Dauphin 7, Central York 1: At Hummelstown, the 10th-seeded Panthers couldn't keep up with the seventh-seeded Rams in a District 3 Class 3-A opener. Central finished at 15-7. Central Dauphin improves to 13-5.
Fairfield 6, Brandywine Heights 2: At Fairfield, the Green Knights broke away from a 2-2 halftime tie in a District 3 Class 1-A quarterfinal. Annabel Anderson had a hat trick for Fairfield, while Naia Roberts, Zoe Logue and Nora Clarke also scored. Top-seeded Fairfield improved to 19-1. No. 9 seed Brandywine fell to 8-10-2. Fairfield moves to Saturday's semifinals vs. No. 5 seed Mount Calvary Christian (11-4-1), which downed No. 4 seed West Shore Christian (13-3) on Wednesday, 3-1. The site and time for Saturday's semifinal has not yet been set.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.