John Erardi reports:
Oh, the vagaries of this game.
Mason fell to Walsh Jesuit 2-0 Friday night in the girls state Division I girls soccer championship at Crew Stadium.
At times, the set pieces in a soccer match seem as positionable as troop movements in the order of battle, and at other times it’s more of a contest of unpredictable bounces, breaks and the rub of the pitch.
- Photos: Comets fall to Warriors
For the most part, the Walsh Warriors took the latter out of it, knowing Mason’s knack for turning slivers of light into goals and victories.
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Comets – but somebody forgot to tell the players. They just kept winning, until they crashed. It came hard, as one would expect from a team accustomed to coming out on top.
‘‘They (the Walsh Warriors) pressed us harder than anybody’s pressed us all year,’’ said Mason coach Andy Schur. ‘‘Until you experience that level of pressure, it takes a little while in game to adust… They put us on our back foot a lot.’’
By pressure Schur means the defense runs toward your offense, allowing no free passes, contesting everything. Strength, speed and physicality dictates it.
‘‘It makes a difference on the back end,’’ Schur said. ‘‘They can play you two against two or three against three and still give you a hard time.’’
The ball was on Mason’s defensive third quite a bit, and Walsh turned two corner kicks into goals.
Walsh’s first goal came off a corner kick with 4:39 in the first half, when Mason was unable to clear it and freshman Sofia Rosi blasted it in.
‘‘A misclearance, I had a miscommunication with one of my teammates,’’ said Mason sophomore goalkeeper Toni Bizzarro.
The second goal also came off a corner kick, this one with 10 minutes left in the game.
A Walsh player kept it alive with a slick kick backward over her head – her back was facing the goal – and then came a hard shot off the post, with sophomore Katie Quinn slamming in the carom.
‘‘Also a misclearance, another miscommunication,’’ said Bizzarro. ‘‘They had so many opportunities on that one, it was just bound to go in.’’
Mason (18-3-2) had a great opportunity off a beautifully placed corner kick with 12 minutes left, as a couple Comets had chances at it, but couldn’t bang it in. That would have tied the game at 1 and might have changed the outcome.
‘‘Definitely,’’ said Mason senior Alex Niehoff. ‘‘Once you get a goal, they can keep coming. And that’s what we believed was going to happen.’’
The Comets felt that had they gotten that early second-half goal, they would have won. They’d been playing great second-half soccer all year long.
Except for the corner-kick flurry, they never got it in the second half. Credit Walsh’s back line.
Six days ago, Mason knocked off Ursula in a whale of a regional championship that contained for the Comets a bit of that latter good fortune. True, the Comets made their own break in winning that game, but there was no such magic here against an equally strong and physical Walsh team.
Walsh, which has now won seven state girls soccer championships since 2000, kept the pressure on and turned the slivers into shadows.
It was Mason’s second straight loss in the state final.
‘‘We weren’t as offensive-minded as we were last year,’’ said goalkeeper Bizzarro. ‘‘They put us on our heels.’’
The Walsh girls (20-0-3) have now won state titles in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
The game began with a ton of energy, despite the cold.
Only 15 seconds in, Mason generated a crisp shot on goal that went just wide left.
Walsh slammed some excellent shots on goal early in first half — at 30:00, 27:40, and 22:50 – and Mason had a decent shot at 23:59 that wasn’t well-struck and was easily saved, but it all portended an action-packed night.
It was well-fought, crisply played first half, just as one would expect from two girls soccer powerhouses.
The first half bore some resemblance to Mason’s regional victory against Ursula, which dominated in the first 60 minutes.
But this one wasn’t lopsided, as Walsh just appeared to have the bigger team, and yet was able to match Mason’s speed. It’s a tough combination to beat.
To have been the underdog in so many games and yet to have played their way into the final will make for great memories once the tears have dried.
‘‘We didn’t play our best game,’’ said Mason junior Jill Vetere, who had scored the game-winner against Ursula in last weekend’s regional. ‘‘Everything happens for a reason. Our freshmen, sophomores and juniors will build on what our seniors led us to.’’