It has been a season of challenges for the York Catholic girls’ soccer team.
The Irish have dealt with injury and constant changes to the lineup, yet have found a way to work through it.
Despite a heartbreaking loss to Fairfield in the final game of the regular season Thursday, the Irish head into the YAIAA tournament just as they're hitting their stride, and their confidence is building. York Catholic completed the regular season with a 9-3 divisional record and an 11-5 mark overall.
That solid showing came after the Irish had just three players appear in all 16 regular season games and fielded a 23-player roster, between the varsity and junior varsity teams combined.
“We’ve worked hard the entire season,” said Fighting Irish head coach Joe Nattans. “I mean, we’re putting a different lineup on the field every game, so it’s a tribute to the girls’ work ethic. They’re not giving up, they’re fighting.”
York Catholic’s never-give-up attitude was on display Thursday night in its regular season finale against the Green Knights. The Irish battled back from a 4-2 first half deficit to tie the game, before eventually falling 5-4.
But the rally was a microcosm for what York Catholic has been able to do all season.
“These girls are fighters. Most them have been here three or four years and they know what it takes,” Nattans said. “They know the importance of games like this and they’re going to give 100 percent all the time. That’s really all I can ask for.”
While the Irish have dealt with injuries and the loss of several key players from last season — including GameTimePA.com first team all-star Elizabeth Johnson — York Catholic has prospered in part to the heavy senior presence on the team.
The Irish have 11 seniors on the 2016 roster and the team’s leaders have helped bring everyone closer together through some of the adversity.
“We kind of just told everybody that we’re here for each other, so we need to play for each other,” senior Melanie Matthews said. “So everybody really took that to heart and our underclassmen really stepped up. They really took charge for use since some of us weren’t able to be out on the field.”
Senior Alexa Citrone has been proud of her teammates for the way they have stepped up this season. Citrone has been sidelined with an injury, but it has meant a lot to see the team come together.
“It feels great because I’ve put three years into this already and I want to go far no matter what,” Citrone said. “I’m really proud of them and I’m along for the ride. I want them to go as far as possible. I still don’t want it to end, even though I’m not playing.”
The first challenge the Irish will face will be the league tournament, which begins Saturday. York Catholic made it to the District 3 championship game and made a run in the state tournament last year, but fell to Dover in the first round of YAIAA tournament.
Heading into this year's tournament, York Catholic is trying keep things simple.
“We take it one game at a time,” senior Paige Phillips said. “We look at the game that’s coming up. We don’t look past that. We have goals we set early in the season to make it as far as we can. We plan on doing that.”