The sight of their girls’ soccer team posing for pictures with huge smiles on their faces and a Philadelphia Catholic League Title plaque in their hands has become a familiar scene for fans.
The girls gave their supporters a reason to celebrate again this season, as the Vikings defeated Little Flower 3-2 at Archbishop Ryan High School Thursday night to win their third consecutive PCL title.
Wood is the first school in the league’s history to win three consecutive titles, and the victory was Wood’s 18th in a row following a 1-2 start to the season. With the win, Wood earned the PIAA District 12 Class AAA playoff berth and will play a first round playoff game on Tuesday against a yet to be determined opponent from District 1. The game will likely be held in South Philadelphia.
Wood fell behind early, but answered back with two straight goals to take a 2-1 lead at halftime. Wood’s leading scorer, forward Kelsey Celline, gave the Vikings’ a 3-1 lead at the start of the second half, and, despite giving back the advantage with just under 12 minutes remaining, Wood hung on for victory.
Vikings Head Coach Bill Cappo said he was pleased with the way his team kept its composure despite giving falling behind 1-0 and later seeing Little Flower cut the deficit to 3-2.
“These girls are very confident, and they know that if they work hard they’ll come back and tie the score,” he said. “We just had to play our game. We had to keep calm, control the game, and take the time and don’t panic or make any mistakes.”
Cappo also said he liked the way his team kept up the offensive pressure throughout the game, and he praised Celline for having a strong game despite the fact that she was often met with double or even triple-teams from Sentinel defenders.
“They kind of kept on her, but she still comes through,” he said. “As much as they pressure her, she changes roles. She scores and she’s also a distributor. She’s somebody that’s a total team player.”
Wood fell behind Little Flower early, as Ursula Coyle found the back of the net at the 23:00 minute mark with a header off of a nice corner kick. Wood goalkeeper Deanna Messner made a lunge to stop the ball, but she just couldn’t get there in time.
After conceding the goal, the Vikings immediately stepped up their offensive attack, keeping the ball in the Sentinels’ zone. Wood was rewarded for its hard work seven minutes later, when midfielder Carly Hoelsworth stepped up and stole an attempted Little Flower clearing attempt. She gave the ball to Celline, and made a run to the left of the keeper. Celline placed a perfect pass back to Hoelsworth, and she just beat the Sentinels’ goalie with a low far-post shot to knot the game at 1-1.
The Vikings added to their lead seven minutes later when a good offensive rush earned them a corner kick. Forward Bethany Bartasavich sent a high, arching kick into the left side of the box. Midfielder Jackie Pierson skied above the defense and headed the ball right into the back of the net to give Wood a 2-1 lead. Little Flower added a bit of pressure towards the end of the half, but the Vikings were able to hang on for a 2-1 lead.
Wood immediately padded their lead in the second half, as Celline scored just 2:30 in. She received a nice cross on the left just outside the box, and fired a low, hard shot that beat the Sentinels' keeper on the far-post.
Despite having a two-goal lead, Wood kept on the attack, possessing the ball in Little Flower’s half of the pitch for long stretches. The Vikings had three of four golden chances to pad their lead, but shots went just wide or were saved by a fingertip.
The Sentinels finally were able to break out of their zone thanks to some nice, quick passing. Coyle, who was questionably onsides by a hair, added her second goal of the game when she made a run towards the middle of the box, and received a pass which she fired low and to the left of Messner.
Wood almost added another goal with 8:00 left, but a shot by Pierson after an interception sailed high and wide to the right. It did not turn out to be a significant miss, though, as the Vikings were able to hang on for the win.
Cappo said he encourages his team to always keep on the attack on offense no matter how big of a lead they have.
“Good offense is the best defense,” he said. “Our thing is to get as many goals as we can, and we’ll keep pushing. We just have to depend on our defense to hold.”
He said he liked the way his team was able to generate offensive chances in the second half, but they need to work a bit on finishing.
The Vikings will try to keep at it on the offensive end, as they look to avenge their 1-0 loss to Peters Township in last year’s state championship game. Once again, the goal is a state title for Cappo’s squad, but the coach knows it won’t be an easy task.
“We were there last year in the final, and it’s tough,” he said. “There are a lot of good teams, and it’s hard work. We’ve just got to keep focused, play our game, [be in] control, and hopefully things work out for us."