In a moment that could have been marred with disappointment, the prevailing emotions instead turned out to be a combination of joy and relief.
Following their tightly-contested loss in the CHSAA Class A final, the Our Lady of Mercy Academy girls soccer team’s sideline featured plenty of smiles and laughter, as a season that was previously clouded by uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic had reached a successful completion on Saturday afternoon at Holy Trinity High School.
"Overall, I’m just so happy that this season was able to happen," said senior goalkeeper Kaleigh Walsh, who had five saves in Our Lady of Mercy’s 1-0 loss to St. Francis Prep. "We really didn’t know what was going to happen but we played, persevered and ended up having a really great season in the end."
St. Francis Prep (5-3) netted the lone goal of the day with 27:30 remaining in the first half, as Vanessa Battaglia knocked in a loose ball from about 25 yards out.
The Mustangs (5-3) created a handful of quality opportunities to knot the score in the second half, but were ultimately unable to convert. Our Lady of Mercy’s best look came on a shot following a cross in front of the net, which was saved with 22:13 to go. A free kick just moments later was also hauled in.
"It was a great game," Our Lady of Mercy coach Sean Donovan said. "Congratulations to St. Francis Prep for playing a great game. They’ve always played us hard in our previous meetings and today they did just the same. Originally we weren’t sure if we would have a season, but we had a great one and I’m extremely proud of our players."
After going winless during the 2018 season, Our Lady of Mercy began the rebuilding process last year by working its way up to the .500 mark. The Mustangs are thrilled to have taken the next step in 2020, finishing with a winning record and competing to the very end of the league championship, before setting their sights on next season.
"We tried our best and that can’t take away from our incredible season and the growth that we’ve had as a team, and especially for the seniors over the last four years," junior Jane Maleady said.