In a tight first half between underdog Little Flower and league juggernaut Archbishop Wood, there was a sense that the first goal scored might be the only one.
That sense was correct. Unfortunately for head coach Markos Pittaoulis and his Little Flower soccer team, the Catholic League semifinal’s lone goal went to Wood, sending the Vikings to the championship game to meet Archbishop Ryan and sending the Sentinels home after one of the more accomplished seasons in Pittaoulis’ 20-plus year tenure at the school.
Wood forward Carly Hoelsworth’s goal with 24:24 left in regulation was the only tally the Vikings needed. Despite plenty of chances on their side, Little Flower couldn’t find the back of the net.
It was a disappointing end to a very eventful season, one that saw Little Flower go 8-2-1 in league play (tied for third place in the standings), open a brand new, state-of-the-art soccer field near the school’s campus, as well as witnessing the emergence of budding sophomore keeper Morgan Basileo, who made a plethora of impressive stops to keep her team in the game against Wood.
“She is going to be one hell of a goalie, one of the best I’ve ever had,” Pittaoulis said of Basileo. “I never really got a goalie, but this one, she’s going to be a player.”
Pittaoulis admitted to being a bit disappointed by his team’s style of play in the semifinals following a 3-0 quarterfinals win over Cardinal O’Hara. In the regular season contest between the two teams, Little Flower played Wood to a 1-1 tie on Sept. 23, a game Pittaoulis said the Sentinels dominated. Little Flower again held the explosive Wood offense to just one goal, but Pittaoulis, who prefers a style of play in which the ball is kept on the ground and out of the air to limit transition opportunities on the counterattack, said his bunch gave the Vikings perhaps one chance too many.
“To be honest with you it’s not our style of game, so I was surprised they played like that,” he said. “I like to play with the ball on the ground, and today they came here and played a completely different kind of game. When we played Wood at our field we dominated them, and I expected another game like that. They were nervous and this and that … what can I tell you?”
If Pittaoulis sounded critical, it was not out of anger or discouragement toward his team; rather, he knew the Sentinels had what it took to beat the Vikings if only they had played a game more conducive to the style that has afforded them so much success this season.
If anything, it was an unseized opportunity that just barely slipped through Little Flower’s fingertips.
“We got our chances and they got theirs,” Pittaoulis said. “I wanted to keep the ball on the ground away from them, but that’s not what we did. One goal turned out to be the difference. Next season.”
Knowing all of the young talent he has returning — with Basileo being the headliner — Pittaoulis said he was already looking forward to next year. His youthful team learned a lot against top-line competition, with the season featuring more peaks than valleys. The Sentinels, Pittaoulis said, plan on being back on this stage again in 2014. Next time, they hope to punch their ticket to the championship round.
“We’ll be back here next year,” he confidently stated. “Next year I think I’ll bring back a hell of a team. We’ll work really hard and try to tape some more games to show them mistakes they made and go from there. We’ll be a much better team next year, no question.”