Friday November 2, 2012 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Immaculata’s Stephanie Busha scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 semifinal win over Cardinal O'Hara. (photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
A young Immaculata squad wasn’t supposed to be the team heading forward in the Monsignor Martin Small School field after falling twice by a combined 8-1 score during the regular season to Cardinal O’Hara, the league front-runner for most of the season.
However, Immaculata found the back of the net first, late in the opening half, and then weathered a Cardinal O’Hara offensive barrage to pull off a surprise in the Monsignor Martin South Division playoffs and advance to Sunday’s (Nov. 4) championship game starting 10 a.m. at St. Joe’s.
Junior midfielder Stephanie Busha was credited with the game’s lone goal and senior goalkeeper Kathryn Halloran made 25 saves to secure the 1-0 win on Oct. 28 and a date with Christian Central in the final.
“It turned out to be a real good game,” said Immaculata head coach Jeff Aau. “We played very strong defense. O’Hara’s offense is very strong and really pressured us.”
Busha took a corner kick awarded to the Bears late in the first half and sent the ball right in front of the net. The ball was pressured by Immaculata and squirted into the net following a scrum. The pressure of O’Hara only increased from there but Halloran and her teammates were up to the task. Halloran earned her fifth shutout of the season in what Aau said was her best outing yet.
“She made tons and tons of saves; she’s was always in the right position and prepared for the ball,” Aau noted.
Along with Halloran, Aau credited his team’s only other seniors, Claire Solak and Amelia Babcock, for helping lead the Bears through the game and being a part of the defensive effort. In fact, he cited all of his players, not just one or two, for playing a part in the shutout. Even the strikers pushed back and helped on the defensive end, he noted.
“Everyone put in the time and worked hard as a group,” Aau said. ‘Without every one’s effort, we wouldn’t have stopped them.”
With such a young squad — having lost seven seniors from last year, all of whom played significant roles, and without a junior varsity in the program, Aau said there was quite a bit of growth that needed to take place during a 6-9-2 regular season.
“We came together as a group,” he said. “We had to start almost from scratch and learn everything new at the beginning of the season.”
The Bears gained enough knowledge to hold off an O’Hara team that led the league virtually from start to finish. The Bears had lost 4-1 and 4-0 to O’Hara in the team’s two prior games. They’ll have to be just as good to overtake 13-2-3 Christian Central in the final. Immaculata did compete right with Christian Central during the regular season with a 1-1 tie and losing 2-0 in double overtime.