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.”