ALTOONA -- They subbed off in shifts, stopping to exchange teary-eyed hugs as they reached the sidelines. The York Catholic girls' soccer team's fate had already been decided, as its starters made their way off the field during the closing minutes of a PIAA Class A quarterfinal against Greensburg Central Catholic.

The Fighting Irish were swept away by a deluge of Centurions goals Saturday, during a 6-0 defeat at Mansion Park Stadium.

It seemed an unceremonious end for a close-knit York Catholic roster, the majority of which had played together since the fourth grade. But it did not erase the accomplishments of a historic season, one which saw the Irish (15-8) play in -- and win -- their first state playoff game in program history.

"There's 11 seniors on the team," said York Catholic senior forward Kathleen Johnson. "There's a bond that goes way deeper than just teammates. It's sisters, best friends. We truly were a team inside and out."

Minutes after the final horn, Irish coach Ryan Luckman exchanged emotional hugs with each member of his roster.

"We had the interesting situation in that we had 13 returning starters. Two came back from injury (last season)," Luckman said. "To have 13 starters, I'm not sure there's too many teams that can say that."

All that mattered little to Greensburg Central Catholic (21-1), which will play Shady Side Academy in a state semifinal Tuesday. Luckman knew his defense would have to play flawless to match a Centurions side that blended pace and power with a precision passing game.


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In their previous game, the District 7 champions poured in seven goals against Karns City.

"You're looking at them going 'Dear goodness, what are we going to do?'" Luckman said.

From the opening kick, York Catholic spent much of the first half hemmed into its own end. The Irish resistance held early, thanks to a handful of Hannah Laslo saves and a Centurions goal that was disallowed for offsides.

Eventually, though, the Greensburg Central Catholic bombardment broke through. Junior Frannie Crouse fired the first goal, stroking a bouncing cross low past a diving Laslo.

Five minutes later Crouse notched her second -- a hard volley under the crossbar after teammate Malea Fabean's pass split a pair of defenders.

So it went for the remainder of the afternoon. Crouse, a junior who has committed to Penn State, deposited two more goals after halftime to finished with four.

"We tried to switch up the lineup to be a little bit more defensive and clog things up," Luckman said. "And we did a pretty good job for 20 minutes. But they're smart enough, and they're good enough to figure out how to get around that."

Added Johnson: "That's the best team we played all year. They had composure the whole game, and once we go down we tend to lose our composure."

For the Irish, any offensive pressure of their own came in fits and starts. Greensburg Central Catholic outshot them, 20-3.

Laslo, a sophomore, made 14 saves in the defeat.

All of which the Irish had no intention of dwelling on afterward.

"It's an amazing feeling looking back on the season and reflecting on the fact that we've come so far," Johnson said. "We accomplished things no one thought we would."
 
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GREENSBURG C.C. 6, YORK CATHOLIC 0
York Catholic  0   0 -- 0
Greensburg C.C.  2   4 -- 6

   First half: 1. GCC, Frannie Crouse, 23:34; 2. GCC, Crouse (Malea Fabean), 18:06.
   Second half: 3. GCC, Crouse (Dominique Stauffer), 34:10; 4. GCC, Crouse (Stauffer), 30:16. 5. GCC, Italia Biondi (Fabean), 27:48. 6. GCC, Fabean, 3:54. 
   Shots on goal: YC 3, GCC 20
   Corners: YC 1, GCC 7
   Saves: York Catholic, Hannah Laslo (14 saves), Madison Dormer (0 saves); Greensburg Central Catholic, Olivia Binda (3 saves).