By Brian Deakyne
EWING – The Mater Dei Prep girls’ soccer team entered the NJSIAA Non-Public B soccer tournament as the 11-seed and with a 5-12 record the seeding made sense. However, after downing the top three teams in the bracket to win the school’s first-ever sectional championship, it quickly became apparent the Seraphs were no ordinary 11-seed.
Unfortunately for the Seraphs, their improbable run came to an end against Oak Knoll in the Non-Public B State Championship on Tuesday night.
If there was ever a sign that things were not going to go in favor of Mater Dei Prep, it came in the 13th minute.
Julia McCarty appeared to bury a goal in that minute, taking a long pass from midfielder Jordan Donahue, but the goal, which would have given the Seraphs the early 1-0 advantage, was waved off due to offsides.
Third-seeded Oak Knoll would take advantage scoring three first-half goals, and added two in the second half to take down Mater Dei Prep in the Non-Public B final at The College of New Jersey on Tuesday.
“They’re a good team, obviously, but we didn’t play our best game tonight. We’re a young team, our girls are going to keep their heads up and we’ll be back,” Mater Dei Prep head coach James Gelpke said, “I think it’s a combination of us not playing to our abilities as a team, and they were just a really good team.”
Oak Knoll’s Morgan Ryan added two second half goals, and Stephanie Ford tallied two goals of her own in the first half, to help the Royals cruise to the group title. Their first two goals, which came in minute 25 and 31, respectively, appeared to come off defensive mishaps, putting a dagger in the heart of Mater Dei Prep.
“I think those goals were a letdown, and we fought back and I think if we had a goal at that point in time, it would be a different story,” Gelpke said, “We tried to put some pressure on them, but then they score again which was really a killer.”
The Royals added a second goal when Ford took a throw-in past two Seraphs defenders and beat Mater Dei keeper Katie Viscardi. The line judge initially awarded the throw-in to Mater Dei, but the field referee gave the ball to Oak Knoll, who took advantage of the out-of-position Seraphs and padded their lead.
“I thought the referees did a great job, but I think they made a pretty clear mistake there,” Gelpke said, “Obviously if you’re going to make that call and the whole team is going in the other direction, give us a chance to get back. I think he muffed that one.”
Mater Dei, who started seven freshmen, upped their pressure in the second half, but it was to no avail, unable to get a ball across the line.
Viscardi was under pressure all night, and was impressive throughout the game, despite giving up five goals. Ryan added goals in the 48th and 69th minutes, respectively for Oak Knoll.
The loss ends Mater Dei Prep’s improbable run as an 11-seed, including their 3-0 win against top-seeded Wardlaw-Hartridge on Thursday in the South Jersey Non-Public Group B final. They also beat St. Joes (6), Moorestown Friends (3), and Gill St. Bernard’s (2).
“People kept telling me you’re playing with house money, you’re playing with house money, you’re playing with house money. We knew we weren’t playing with house money. We knew we could win this and that was the goal,” Gelpke said.
“We’re a young team and we know that,” Gelpke said, “We’ll be back. I promise.”