Northeast Times

‘Snakebitten’ Ragdolls bounced from state playoffs

Snake­bit­ten.

That was the word that Arch­bish­op Ry­an head girls soc­cer coach Ry­an Haney used to de­scribe his high-scor­ing team’s feeble of­fens­ive ef­fort in Tues­day night’s PI­AA Class AAA first round state play­off 1-0 loss to Cent­ral Bucks East at North­east High School. The Rag­dolls, win­ners of the Cath­ol­ic League and Dis­trict 12 city titles for the second straight year, looked dis­com­bob­u­lated and un­com­fort­able all night, strug­gling to cre­ate much of any­thing in the form of of­fens­ive chances.

East es­sen­tially con­trolled the ball from start to fin­ish, get­ting the lone goal of the con­test with 19:56 re­main­ing when Emily Palmer de­pos­ited a chance in front of Ry­an goalie Jazmin Gonza­lez after team­mate Mi­kala Palermo had fired one off the cross­bar seconds earli­er. It was a tough pill for the Rag­dolls (21-2) to swal­low, as it was the second time in as many years they ex­ited the state play­offs fol­low­ing a 1-0 open­ing round de­feat (Cent­ral Bucks West did the deed in 2012).

“We’re a team that scored 85 goals this sea­son, and we cre­ate two chances all night,” Haney lamen­ted. “It was a com­plete mirage of what we’re cap­able of do­ing.”

One of those chances was the best one either team had all night, com­ing with 6:21 left in the con­test. Ry­an sopho­more for­ward Ju­les Blank, who had just re-entered the con­test after ex­it­ing briefly fol­low­ing an on-field col­li­sion, beat her de­fend­ers in stride, set­ting up an isol­a­tion stan­doff between she and Pat­ri­ots keep­er Paige Mar­cinkowski. Blank per­haps waited a split-second too long to fire her shot, and Mar­cinkowski was able to dive to her left and turn Blank’s ef­fort aside with her fin­ger­tips.

Af­ter­ward, the Rag­dolls were left with the simple ques­tion of how did East (19-3-3) so thor­oughly con­trol the pos­ses­sion battle?

“We chased, we were un­sure of what to do with the ball and we wer­en’t con­fid­ent,” Haney said. “I told them it’s dis­ap­point­ing one through el­ev­en. We just didn’t come out with the ap­proach that had giv­en us suc­cess all sea­son. We wer­en’t sure what to do with the ball. I’m not sure if it was out of fear of mak­ing a mis­take, or that it was ‘Oh, this is it if we lose.’ There was no re­lax­a­tion or com­fort with the ball. It wasn’t the way we were cap­able of play­ing, and it’s a shame that two years in a row we end on a game where we didn’t play our best. It’s not a good feel­ing.”

A po­ten­tial sil­ver lin­ing for Haney is that most of his team — one that’s lost just three games the past two sea­sons — will re­turn in 2014. The Rag­dolls have just four seni­ors on the roster, with for­ward Bri­ana Egen­lauf and de­fend­er Taylor Adair be­ing the only two starters Haney has to re­place. Every­body else — from Blank to Gonza­lez to all-state sweep­er Kaitlyn Mc­Fad­den and of­fens­ively gif­ted sopho­more mid­field­er Taylor Woods — will be back, mean­ing Ry­an should be the odds-on fa­vor­ite to re­peat as league champs for a third straight sea­son.

However, Haney wasn’t in the mood for mor­al vic­tor­ies or things to come, at least not right now. The sting of a golden op­por­tun­ity was still too fresh.

“I might be say­ing that in 24 hours, but right now, ugh…,” he sighed. “It’s just a tough one to swal­low. I think in big games like these, our youth comes out and you see it a little bit more. Some of them might have the idea of, ‘Oh, we’ll get it next year,’ or ‘We have a year or two left,’ and that’s dis­ap­point­ing to me as a coach. You’re three games away from play­ing for a state title … it’s an op­por­tun­ity you want to take ad­vant­age of.”

That be­ing said, the loss cer­tainly left Haney and the Rag­dolls hungry for more. If they are lucky enough to be in the same po­s­i­tion in 2014, they won’t miss it, the coach vowed.

“If this op­por­tun­ity arises again next year,” he said. “It ain’t gonna hap­pen three years in a row, I’ll tell you that much.”

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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