This time last year the only emotion the Sacred Heart girls soccer team experienced was heartbreak.
After all, an overtime loss to St. Anthony’s in the CHSAA Class AA semifinals was quite the crushing blow.
This time around in the semis was a polar opposite outcome for the Spartans however, as No. 2 Sacred Heart (14-3) rolled against No. 3 St. John the Baptist (7-6-3) 4-0, to advance to the league title game against No. 1 St. Anthony’s (15-0) on Saturday at Adelphi University.
“Last year was really upsetting,” senior Kristen McArdle said. “We just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again this year.”
McArdle, the team captain, is the veteran voice of a team that has advanced to its first league championship match since 2013 against St. John the Baptist — a 2-0 defeat. Yet the Spartans have done so by consistently utilizing seven sophomores in their starting lineup.
Caitlin Kennedy, Victoria Minda, Grace Haff and Joanna Grasa each netted a goal against St. John the Baptist to give Sacred Heart the golden opportunity they’ve been yearning for going back to last season. Goalkeepers Shannon Etts and Sara Micheli recorded save totals of four and three, respectively.
One glance at Kennedy’s 2016 scoring output of 26 goals makes it blatantly obvious she’s having a remarkable season. Though she stands at just 5-3, coach Peter Bralower believes Kennedy’s only significant measurements come in the form of intensity and wit.
“She has a big heart and quick feet,” Bralower said. “She can finish with both feet. Most of her goals have come off very quick shots in small spaces.”
Now within 80 minutes of capturing long-awaited redemption, Kennedy exuded confidence in her Sacred Heart team entering their showdown with the Cougars, even despite 1-0 and 3-1 losses to them this season.
“I think the team is prepared since we’ve played them before,” Kennedy said. “We’ve played them a couple times. I think everyone feels comfortable.”
The Spartans flew past their 2015 semifinals nightmare on Wednesday night.
The key to alluding the St. Anthony’s heartbreak from repeating itself in the title game?
“We have tremendous respect for them, they’re clearly the favorites,” Bralower said. “Our players are really excited and will play with confidence. If we can come out of the first half 0-0, or 1-0 either way we’ll be OK. What’s important for us is to get off to a good start.”