HERSHEY — For the better part of Wednesday evening's District 3 Class 1-A girls' soccer championship match at Hersheypark Stadium, York Catholic was able to hang tough with York-Adams League rival Fairfield.
Unfortunately, the Fighting Irish could never find a way to get over the proverbial hump.
A pair of goals by the Green Knights late in the first half, followed by two more after the Irish cut the deficit in half, helped Fairfield put its stamp on the program's first-ever District 3 title with a 6-1 triumph.
"We worked our butts off to get to this stage," Fairfield coach Phomma Phanhthy said. "So this really feels good for the girls."
For the Irish (14-7), it was just another refrain from a familiar story this year. After getting trounced 13-0 in the first meeting between the schools, coach Joe Nattans' club pushed the Knights (21-1) to the limit in the rematch before falling, 5-4.
For as close as that second contest was, however, York Catholic was unable to find a way to take the lead. That almost happened Wednesday.
In the 15th minute. York Catholic's MaCayla Welsh had a golden opportunity. Vying for a loose ball in the box, Fairfield keeper Ashley Roser misjudged a deflection, giving Welsh an open look at the net. Welsh, however, was pressured from behind on her attempt and she sent it wide right of the post.
That would be the closest the Irish would come for the rest of the half.
After many close calls, the Green Knights finally gained the upper hand late in the first half. On a free kick, the Division III champions were able to go ahead when Maya Callenbach lofted a beautiful feed into the box. Freshman Annabel Anderson used her height to get her head on Callenbach's feed before lofting it into the net with 8:34 left in the half.
Hannah Logue, who finished with two goals and an assist, doubled the advantage in the final minutes of the half when she deftly deposited a shot from 13 yards out inside the left post.
"This is very exciting," Logue said. "I'm extremely proud of our team."
The Irish drew within a goal early in the second half when Eden Jahn redirected a corner kick from Renee Bonner. The Knights, however, wasted little time seizing back the momentum when Anderson was able to sneak a shot just inside the right post. Then just more than two minutes later, Nora Clarke pretty much sealed the contest with a back-breaking goal to make it 4-1.
"We knew that we weren't going to hold them down forever," Nattans said. "We did our best to just try to keep them away from the goal. But with the firepower that they have up front, it's just very difficult to do that."
It was a rough night for Nattans. Feeling that his players were the victim of some overly physical play, the Irish coach earned a red card midway through the second half and was sent off. As a result, he will be unable to coach the team in its PIAA first-round contest next week.
"All I will say about that is that I will always protect the safety of my players," he said. "And I felt that the safety of my players was in jeopardy. That's why I had to say something. Whether it was the right call or not, I'll always defend my players."
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.