It may not be the farthest the Holy Trinity girls soccer team has ever gone in the postseason, but if you look at the season as a whole, it was easily one of the best the Tigers have ever had.
But in a season where Holy Trinity accomplished things no other team in program history has ever done, the Tigers came up about 90 seconds short in their Class 3A, District 10 semifinal against West Shore Friday night.
Now, the Tigers (5-3-3) will have to wait to see how the rest of the district tournaments in the region play out to determine if their season will continue.
Playing without key senior Emerson Euziere (concussion), the Tigers held the Wildcats scoreless throughout regulation, the first overtime period and nearly all of the second before West Shore was able to nick in a goal with 90 seconds remaining to win the game 1-0 and advance to the district final.
“I don’t know what else we could have really done,” Holy Trinity coach Taylor Pitts said. “We got scored on with about a minute-and-a-half left (in the second overtime). Our goalkeeper (Evie Rittenhouse) made two saves back-to-back and then they finally figured out how to score.
“It was kind of devastating. We worked on PKs for a while, so we were ready to get to that point. Playing without Emerson left a big hole for us to try to fill.”
Euziere, Holy Trinity’s holding midfielder, sustained her injury in the Tigers’ 1-0 victory over Melbourne last Friday. It was the first time Holy Trinity had ever beaten the Bulldogs.
She also played a big role in Holy Trinity’s 2-0 win over West Shore earlier this season, which was also the program’s first-ever victory over the Wildcats.
Without Euziere, the Tigers moved a key piece of their offense, senior Erin Sherden, into the holding midfielder role.
“She’s a real important part of what we try to do,” Pitts said of Euziere. “We tried to put Erin there, and when we put Erin there, the issue is going forward gets a lot more tough.
“Erin’s such an explosive player.”
The Tigers got solid performances all around Friday night – from Greer Reynolds and Kaileigh Smith up front to Averie Schweitzer, Catherine McCarthy and Lani Watt in back and from everyone else who took the field – but it just wasn’t enough to get past the Wildcats (11-5) for a second time this season.
“We were a minute-and-a-half away from going to PKs, which was something we were completely comfortable with,” Pitts said.
“… At the end of last night, Averie talked to the girls a little bit and they’ll tell you it was the best season so far. They beat Mel-Hi, which they’d never done. They beat West Shore one time, which they’d never done. And their team bonding this year, they loved it.
“Averie’s words were they’re closer than they’ve ever been and they really appreciate the team bonding part of what we did.”
The Tigers have created a team culture this season that benefitted them in the present and should have an even bigger impact in the future given the number of young, talented players on the roster.
McCarthy; Reynolds; Smith; Watt; Charna Black; Ava Knight; Valentina Velarde; Ella Shannon and Evie Flickinger are just some of the underclassmen who will carry on the tradition the Tigers have built.
And there’s no question the impact Holy Trinity’s seven seniors have had on the program, particularly captains Schweitzer, Sherden and Euziere.
“Those three players are all big time as far as our seniors go. They had huge impacts, playing 80 minutes a game,” Pitts said.
“Averie does a really good job communicating for us as far as building us up and talking to us while we’re playing.
“Emerson eats up the whole middle of the park when she plays. She’s dominant. It allows us to play with one holding mid when we have her in there.
“And then Erin. Find me a boy or a girl that has a work rate and a motor like Erin. She just doesn’t quit. Last night, she got taken down a half-dozen times from behind and she’d just pop right back up and go back to work. Never complained, just went to work.”
Pitts also had nice things to say about Holy Trinity seniors Thalia Schrumpf; Bianca Fontanin; Rittenhouse and Raina Wamsley.
“We have Thalia, who has come a long way. She doesn’t play club at a high level, but she’s great to have around,” Pitts said. “Bianca came back this year from a torn ACL from club, so this was the first time she’s played in about a year. The last two or three games she played, she’s been on it.
“Evie had probably the best goalkeeping game (last night) we could ever expect out of her. She didn’t play soccer last year. She hasn’t played club soccer in a long time. I became the coach and she agreed to come back and play keeper for us. She made a bunch of saves last night that, at the beginning of the year, she wouldn’t have made. Thanks to Coach (Robert) Draper. He spent a lot of time with her.
“Evie easily had the game of her life last night, which was fantastic. Raina was out last night, but for someone who doesn’t play a lot of minutes, she shows up to everything. She works really hard. Can’t say enough good things about Raina.”
Now the waiting game begins for the Tigers.
Holy Trinity was ranked sixth in Region 3 coming into the district tournament, one spot ahead of West Shore.
Oxbridge Academy, which was ranked No. 8, lost in the quarterfinals of its district tournament to Cardinal Newman, which was ranked fifth.
Saint Andrews (No. 9) plays its district semifinal on Tuesday in a game that could decide Holy Trinity’s postseason fate.
Tenth-ranked Lincoln Park Academy lost in the semifinals. Melbourne Central Catholic was the 11th-ranked team in the region and won’t be jumping ahead of the Tigers, either.
All of those 11 teams come from three districts, which is where the problem could come for Holy Trinity. District 9 will get a team in the regional playoffs, even though its highest ranked team is No. 12 Trinity Prep (2-7-2).
If Saint Andrews can beat No. 13 Katz Yeshiva on Tuesday to reach the district title game, it could conceivably move into the regional playoff picture.
As anyone who has followed the FHSAA ranking system over the years can tell you … good luck figuring it out.
“There’s a chance,” Pitts said. “I gave the girls the weekend off. We’re going to practice next week like we normally would and wait for districts to get over. (If we get in), there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to go down and play (No. 1 seed) Benjamin. We’ll just have to be ready to play them.”