Over the past four years, St. Saviour’s girls’ soccer program has gone from struggling even to field team to competing for a diocesan title.
The title remains out of reach, but that doesn’t take away from the achievement of getting that far.
The Pandas fell 1–0 to Monsignor McClancy in the Brooklyn-Queens Class A girls’ soccer final on a frigid and rainy afternoon last Saturday at Aviator Sports and Events Center.
An influx of talent and the guidance of second-year coach Ed O’Donnell helped St. Saviour’s progress. Last year, it lost 1–0 to Bishop Kearney in the semifinal. This season, it beat two-time defending champion St. Edmund 2–0 to reach the title game.
“It’s an unbelievable experience to actually make it to the final,” said senior midfielder Katie O’Donnell, the coach’s daughter. “It’s sad that we didn’t unfortunately win. The fact that our soccer program came this far over two years is just incredible.”
St. Saviour, which split its regular season meetings with McClancy, saw its best chance to score come in the game’s opening minutes. Meaghan McGinn took a shot from inside the box that hit right off the facing of the crossbar and bounced away from the net. The crossbar was friendlier to McClancy.
The Crusaders’ only goal of the game came during a scramble in the box off a corner kick. Pandas’ keeper Carmen Proffitt, who was excellent all afternoon, made the initial save. Victoria Ramirez of McClancy had her first shot blocked by a defender, but her second hit of the bottom of the cross ball and rolled in. The goal gave McClancy a 1–0 lead in the 19th minute.
“We had our chance and didn’t put it in,” Ed O’Donnell said. “They had their chance and put it in.”
McClancy (11–6–1) was able to limit St. Saviour’s scoring opportunities by disrupting its passes in the midfield and keeping the ball on the outside, away from Katie O’Donnell and Kevina Khan. Ed O’Donnell felt nerves and the bad weather also kept his squad from refocusing on getting back to the way it plays.
The Pandas (8–5–2) finally put some serious pressure on the McClancy defense in the game’s final 10 minutes, including a 20-yard free kick from Katie O’Donnell that sailed wide in the 78th minute.
“That’s when everyone finally started playing,” Katie O’Donnell said. “We took too long to start playing, but we tried our hardest”
Ed O’Donnell doesn’t believe this group’s efforts and success will go for naught. St. Saviour losses 10 seniors, but only four started. The last two years have changed the expectations around the Pandas.
“We have a lot of young girls coming back,” Ed O’Donnell said. “Hopefully we will keep the program moving forward.”