Hatboro-Horsham came into its PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal against West Chester Henderson an overwhelming underdog, but that is nothing new. There are many who did not even anticipate the Hatters getting into the district playoffs, let alone states. They left it all on the field against the title favorites, but the wild ride has come to an end.
Outplaying the Warriors for much of the game, Hatboro-Horsham fell to Henderson 1-0 and was eliminated from the state playoffs on Saturday afternoon. The Hatters played well enough to win, but just could not find a goal despite all their possession. While H-H was left wondering what could have been after the loss, it was an unexpected run that was more than anyone could have asked for.
"They got that quick goal early, but we didn't give up after that,' H-H coach Laura Swezey said. "We have had a great season. It's wonderful to see how the kids have developed over the course of the year.'
Despite giving up a goal just three minutes into the game, the Hatters showed the same fight that they have brought to each game of this improbable run. The opening goal came somewhat against the run of play, as H-H ran the ball into Henderson's half and forced a few corners. The goal did not discourage the Hatters, but a solid three minutes of offensive pressure proved fruitless.
H-H was causing all kinds of problems for the undefeated District One champions. Henderson stayed organized in the back, but the Hatters were clearly going for it all early and keeping possession. The only time the ball was in the Hatters' end in the first 10 minutes was when the goal was scored. Still, it had to be wondered how long H-H could sustain that kind of pressure without seeing any results. Henderson goalie Emily Finn had a very impressive first half.
"We had the effort, but some bounces just weren't going our way,' Swezey said. "But I'm proud of the girls. They fought to the end and really have become better players and people this season.'
The Hatters were close to scoring on so many occasions in the first half, but just could not punch it through. The final pass was there, but the finish either went begging or was stopped by Finn and the Henderson back line. The H-H defense also had a solid half, but the lack of goals in comparison to the opportunities proved frustrating heading into halftime down 1-0.
H-H continued to match their opponent in the second half, but they were still held goalless. Both teams had their fair share of scoring opportunities, but Henderson's advantage on the scoreboard allowed it to be more relaxed. The Hatters defense never panicked, but there was a sense of anticipation every time Henderson attacked, like the next goal would be the backbreaker.
"We played absolutely spectacular, I could not ask for anything else from the girls on this team,' goalie Emily Braunewell said. "We just could not get the ball past them, but we gave them our best shot.'
Braunewell came up big time after time in the second half, quelling scoring opportunities and distributing well. The heroic defense and goalkeeping gave the attack more motivation to go out and score, but they still struggled to make the most of opportunities.
"I could not have played as well as I did without my defense,' Braunewell said. "I can relax when I'm out there knowing that I have them in front of me. They are the best players on the field, so it's not as scary as you would think.'
It is more than fair to say that the Hatters were the better team for the majority of the contest, but goals are what decide games in the end, not form and effort. H-H provided an answer for every question Henderson asked and pushed one of the area's best to the brink, but one goal early in the game was the difference. It's a hard pill to swallow for the Hatters, but it does not make their run to this point any less special.
"It was an amazing season,' Braunewell said. "We weren't expected to make it as far as we did, so we wanted to make sure we went as far as possible. This is such a big deal to us and we are just happy to say that we made it to states and played well.'