MILFORD, PA — Nine Delaware Valley girls who have been playing soccer together since they were four years old closed out the season with a district championship.
“They are a …
On a lovely autumn Saturday afternoon at the Delaware Valley High School, a group of young women varsity soccer players snatched a 4-3 overtime victory from the jaws of infamy after an ordinary pass from defense to goalie—one they’ve done thousands of times—ended up in their own goal with nine minutes left to play in the district championship. The goal put Williamsport ahead by a goal in a sport notoriously stingy with points.
Few sinking feelings toll louder in sports than the self-inflicted error that leads to a post-season loss. Few life memories are harder to wash clean of the psyche than the season-ending gaffe. Few emotions reverberate longer.
Few opponents wish to win that way, because they know that by only the grace of God, go they.
“After 14 years of 365 24/7 soccer, we were not going to lose that way,” said Shannon LeMay, mother of Zoe LeMay, and one of the parents who have seen the last 14 years of child-rearing themed with this group of girls and their passion for soccer.
Seven of the seniors and two juniors of DV varsity soccer are ending a sport’s chapter that has defined their young lives. Starting at age four, these girls began playing together, and closed out their last season with a district championship.
“They are a formidable pack,” LeMay said. “They are teammates, they are friends. They do everything together.”
That bond could have played a part in the determination not to let a miscue become the asterisk on their efforts, a two-second defining blight on a quintessential sports story. It was not going to end this way, even if, as seconds then minutes ticked away, it was more hope than reality.
What might have helped was a string of stinging defeats mid-season, when the team lost four and tied one, fundamentally challenging the idea that ‘this was their year.’
“It was really a choice they made,” said second-year coach Kevin Quinn. “Fold it up and pack it in? It tested us. This is a tight-knit group of girls that expect to win.” Fast-forwarding to this comeback win with their backs to the wall, Quinn said, “It was the best soccer I’ve seen from them. Period. They didn’t waver.”
This excellent varsity team is anchored by 15 year-round play on travel and school teams. It’s a close group that extends to the parents who have traveled, rooted, sacrificed, supported and invested the insane amount of time and money youth sports can demand. If any team could find a way to stay with it, to stick with it, to dig deep and find that magic—finding that alchemy that makes sports unforgettable—it was this team. Or so that was the idea.
The game started with two quick goals—DV scoring within 90 seconds, and Williamsport just a few minutes later with a corner kick. The match settled into a rolling back and forth of kicks, clears, headers and occasional break-away threats. DV appeared sluggish. Williamsport gained the lead with a spectacular header off a surgical corner kick with 10 minutes to the half. That score held at the half.
Twenty-three minutes passed in the 2nd half—for a game total of 33 scoreless minutes—when Regan Currabba was fouled in the box and slipped a penalty kick by the out-foxed goalie. And just like that, the game was tied with 17 minutes left.
The action picked up its pace until the DV defender did what she has done thousands of times over her career—in an empty field where all players had migrated the other way—she passed the ball back to the goalie to punt it out.
But she passed it a little too hard, passed it a little too fast, passed a little too wide, to a goalie that was just not quite in position. And in that instant, the crowd, team and referees watched as the ball, not moving that quickly—its rotations slow but insistent—soon became apparent it was heading toward the goal.
Every player and fan was calculating the geometry of the ball vs. goalie. Off-balance, diving, connecting, disrupting its path, the goalie’s efforts are not enough. Time slows, except for that rolling ball and scrambling goalie. It rolls over and over in slow motion into the goal.
With an audible groan but no words; the game just continued. The coaches didn’t rally around a time-out. A dad shouted encouragement that no one really believed. A shared emotion of horror hovered over the parent section—already on edge from the game’s excitement—as nine minutes flipped to three.
Until, when literally the only thing on people’s minds was how to console the team, Regan struck again with a gigantic goal—her third—with 2:38 minutes left that tied the game.
“We had to win in OT. They would have beat us if it came down to penalty kicks,” LeMay said. And win they did when Giavanna Ciardullo scored with one minute left in OT.
Memorable victories—great victories—are defined by the return from the lost cause. Of the hundreds of games these young women have played over the last decade, this victory was memorable indeed. Memorable for the winning season it book-ended. Memorable for the comeback and emotional roller-coaster. And most of all, memorable for how this band of sisters didn’t let, would never let, their careers end on such dour note and found a way to win.
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