Little Flower soccer comes up just short in semifinals

Sentinels suffer 1-0 semifinals loss to Archbishop Wood

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.”

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