HAVERFORD — Staring at a one-goal deficit midway through the second half, Haverford's Olivia Butera raced onto a through ball with all her might. Adelaide Feigenbaum had held the ball up superbly before slipping in her teammate.
As Butera chased, so too did the Fords: After an equalizing goal, after a victory. Alas, they also spent much of the night chasing West Chester East's midfield.
Butera, fatigued from her long run, could only poke the ball into the welcoming arms of East's sliding keeper Alex Schmied. It was the story of the second half for Haverford. With the Vikings holding a majority of the possession, the Fords worked in vain, and Marina Morton's insurance goal with just over six minutes left sealed East's 3-1 victory in a District One Class AAA girls soccer playoff game Tuesday.
"We chased and chased and we got tired,' Haverford coach Alexandra Hill said. "When we got the ball we struggled to possess it, but when we did we had success.'
Both teams came out firing. East opened the scoring just three minutes into the game when a long ball skipped viciously off the turf and past Haverford left back Hannah Dobbs. The Vikings' Shannon Moore, her speed on display throughout the match, ran onto the ball and squared it to a wide open Hannah Specht. She took one touch before finding the lower corner.
Just two minutes later, though, Haverford equalized. Butera floated a perfect corner kick over Schmied's head and to the far post. Senior midfielder Laura Slavich bodied the ball in amid a crowd.
"It was the biggest blur,' Slavich explained. "I was following the ball with my eyes. All of a sudden it hit me in the chest and the next thing I know we're celebrating. It was the biggest rush of adrenaline.'
Slavich's adrenaline carried over to her teammates. For the next twenty minutes the Fords had the better of the play. Feigenbaum proved to be a threat down the left flank. She earned multiple corners and drew two fouls in dangerous areas. On the right side of the field, freshman right back Brianna Blair played in substitute Greta Ungvary with a measured through ball. Schmied, however, once again read the play and thwarted the chance.
Haverford's failure to capitalize in the first half would come back to bite the Fords. With eight minutes remaining out of the opening forty, Specht was fouled near the sideline in Haverford's half of the field. Hailey Stein stepped up and drilled an inch-perfect cross that left Fords keeper Kelly Rogers glued to her goal line. East's Hayley Eshleman's left footed volley gave the Vikings a lead they would not relinquish. Outside of Butera's second half dash, Haverford never really threatened East's goal again.
Despite the score, the Fords' defense led by Rogers played admirably. Employing a backline that featured two sophomores and a freshman, Haverford held the speedy East forwards in check for much of the game.
The Fords defense "stepped up,' Slavich said. "They really held their own.'
Rogers played her part as well.
"I've had to play since freshman year,' the standout keeper explained. "I was told to talk early. I always have.'
Her leadership helped compose her youthful teammates. And when Rogers faced the rare open chance for East, she was there to make the save.
"I felt we still had a chance at 2-1,' she said. "Every time we got the ball in their end I thought ' We got this.''
They did not, but Rogers, Slavich, and Hill all praised the effort.
"Playing without Aniya (Davila-Smith, injured against Radnor) was an adjustment. But Kelly and Laura were tremendous,' said Hill.
Perhaps Slavich summed it up best.
"I have no regrets,' she said through a wide grin.