Weekly Feature

2018-11-08 / Sports

St. Mary’s girls soccer team falls to Nichols, 1-0, in Monsignor Martin final


A fantastic St. Mary’s girls soccer season came to a tough end Saturday when the Lady Lancers lost to Nichols, 1-0, in the Monsignor Martin Championship game at Canisius College.

The team played well at first, with multiple chances to take the lead on point-blank chances. But the Lady Vikings’ experience took over late in the game, allowing them to take over with a goal in the final seven minutes of the game.

“Midway through the second, there was a bit of a switch,” St. Mary’s coach Brittany Heist said. “I think Nichols’ upperclassmen and senior class just kind of made the final push in regards to regaining the momentum and laying everything out on the line. I have a young team who just didn’t have that final push to kind of keep us in the game. I’m not saying they gave up by any means, but the momentum and the energy swayed a little bit by the end of the second half. I think that’s just due to our experience in situations like a game like this. Overall, I was very pleased.”

The Lady Lancers did not give up after the late goal, continuing to push for the equalizer. But they did not have enough time to get a good chance in. Still, it was not a performance the girls should hang their heads about.

“It was a very good environment with two very evenly matched teams,” Heist said. “The one opportunity they were able to create in the second half, the girls did a really good job. Anya was screened a little bit and they were able to punish us. With seven minutes to go, it was hard to get one back because it was just enough time for them to just have energy to push through. It was an entertaining game. It’s something we will learn from, especially never being in this situation before at this level. We need to develop that for the upcoming years.”

The Lady Lancers have a lot to look forward to. They had only five seniors on this team and 10 freshmen, six of whom were starters. That includes standout striker Shae O’Rourke, who shattered a program record with 44 goals and 16 assists. St. Mary’s was a young team and still was able to finish first in the division and make it to the championship game. They’ll have this experience to take with them next season, along with the knowledge of what it feels like to lose this type of game.

“I think the feeling of losing along will spur a lot of these girls to not feel this type of feeling in this type of environment again,” Heist said. “We were a team that won a significant amount of games in a row. I think that came down to how we lost in early autumn this season, and we kept reflecting on how we never wanted to feel those types of moments again. The biggest thing I said after the game was ‘we had this incredible season and you should all feel very proud. Although we’re all very competitive and this is frustrating. This is a moment that we all need to soak in for the next couple of minutes. We have to know this is a feeling we don’t like and we need to move on from it and learn from it. When we’re in a game like this next year, we want to be able to close it instead of letting it slip away from us.’”

The team has been on a steady upward trajectory since Heist took over the program. They won just two games in 2015, jumped to seven wins in 2016, won the Monsignor Martin B Division in 2017 and took the A Division this year. They’re well on their way to becoming an elite program in Western New York.

“It’s exciting,” Heist said. “I pour a lot of time and passion into this program, and I want the girls to have a lot of fun. But at the same time, I want them to know that this is a program that I want to consider elite, and I want to consider as one of the top programs in Western New York. For us to move up two divisions in the course of three years and go unbeaten in the regular season this year is satisfying, but you always try to get to the top, then what’s the next step? We don’t want to plateau. Now that we have won a Division B regular-season championship and a Division A regular-season championship this year, now how do we win the playoff championship and put our sights on winning a state championship? I think this team definitely has potential next year and in the years to come. I had a freshman class this year of 10 and six of them, if they continue to play the way they are playing, will be starting again next year. I’m very pleased, satisfied, but not totally satisfied with where the program is at.”

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