Early goal dooms Irish in district semifinal loss to Champion
YOUNGSTOWN — It only takes one bounce.
That one bounce went into the Ursuline net as fifth-seeded Champion upended the fourth-seeded Fighting Irish, 1-0, in a district semifinal matchup at the YSU Soccer Complex.
“We came out, gave it our best, they played well, we missed a mark early in the game and that was the difference right there,” Ursuline coach Roy Schmidt said. “They had play and we had play, and it’s just one of those things. The ball bounces funny for us once, and you pay a price for that.”
Three minutes into the game, Champion’s Morgan Hardman booted the ball in on a corner kick. Sophomore Mattie Fell fought through the crowd and hit the ball top shelf to score the lone goal of the game.
Ursuline (10-6-2) had multiple chances on net, but Champion goalkeeper Courtney Hurst held strong and kept the Fighting Irish scoreless. Hurst finished the game with eight saves, mainly coming in that second half.
“I’m pleased with the way my girls played, especially in the second half,” Schmidt said. “They came out, played hard and gave it everything they had. Like any coach in my position right now, you feel for your seniors knowing it’s their last game.”
After that first goal, the teams raced down the field both ways, with each defense holding strong, which is exactly what Champion coach Emily Metheny expected going into the match.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Metheny said. “Ursuline is a great program. We hadn’t had the chance to see them in the regular season, so we just had to go in based off of playing our game, coming in hard, earning it and making sure that we came out and got this kind of ending.”
Just as Hurst had a strong game in net for the Flashes, junior goalkeeper Tanner Schade had a strong game for Ursuline, finishing the night with 10 saves.
The Fighting Irish graduate four seniors, including their two active captains Cara McNally and Sering Limbu.
“The girls made it a wonderful, wonderful year,” Schmidt said. “One of the most heartbreaking things isn’t so much this, it’s going to their graduation because it’s like losing kids again. I raised four of my own and I just keep watching kids leave every year. It’s tough.”
Schmidt says the seniors made just as important of an impact off the field as they did on the field.
“They developed an environment where you want to coach and an environment where other people want to play,” he said. “I have four seniors and they made an environment where everybody was happy and they enjoyed it. We’re a family.”
The Golden Flashes (12-1-0) will meet up with South Range in the district final after the Raiders took down Garfield, 6-0.
“We cannot let our heads drop if we face adversity,” Metheny said. “We’ve faced adversity all year, so we can’t let it affect us now. We’ve got to go into the game hard, ready to play our game and can’t lose focus on the prize.”