Hug it out: Little Flower junior Casey Brown is mobbed by teammates after she scored the game’s only goal in a 1–0 Catholic League quarterfinals victory against St. Hubert. KEVIN COOK / FOR THE TIMES
When Thursday night’s Catholic League girls soccer semifinals come around and Little Flower’s David steps on to the field to face the mighty Goliath of Archbishop Ryan at 7 p.m., Casey Brown knows nobody will give her team much of a chance to win.
Even after a 4–0 Little Flower loss to the undefeated regular season champion Ragdolls last month, Brown disagrees with dissenters who will say the Sentinels don’t belong on the same field as their seemingly unstoppable opponent. However, the Little Flower junior at least understands the notion, given that she wasn’t even supposed to be here herself.
“I fractured my leg earlier this season, so I wasn’t even supposed to be playing at this point,” said Brown after her first-half goal proved to be the decisive one in host Little Flower’s 1–0 victory over St. Hubert in the quarterfinals. “That really gets me going, just the fact that I’m here. I made a really quick recovery to get back and be able to play. The feeling is unreal … I’m just on cloud nine.”
Brown’s tally came following a corner kick she took in the first half. After booting the ball toward the box, it found its way back to Brown’s right foot, and she was one-on-one with a Hubert’s defender near the 18-yard line. She fired a high shot on the near post, which trickled past the outstretched fingertips of Bambie sophomore goalie Briana Pudlo. From there, the Little Flower defense and junior goalie Morgan Basileo did the rest, sending Little Flower on to the semis.
Little Flower finished 6–2–3 this year, good for fourth place in the Catholic League. Led by explosive sophomore forward Cailey Plath, the Sentinels scored 32 goals while Basileo allowed just eight. But Little Flower was beset by a rash of injuries, including top players Alexis Ukogu and Caleigh Gallagher, in addition to Brown’s leg and a banged-up Plath, who has been playing through a bum knee all season.
Somehow, longtime head coach Markos Pittaoulis has mixed and matched to make things work, and Little Flower will get another chance in the semifinals after falling in the same round, 1–0 to Archbishop Wood, a year ago.
The opponent this time will be even tougher. The Ragdolls, who are gunning for their third consecutive Catholic League crown, went 11–0 in the regular season and senior goalie Jazmin Gonzalez did not allow a single goal. That, plus the fact that Ryan also scores a ton (they dispatched Cardinal O’Hara 8–0 in a Monday night quarterfinal contest), equals a monumental task for the Sentinels.
Even so, the team believes it has what it takes to get the job done.
“Me personally, I think we have a group of girls unlike any other team,” Brown said. “I think we’re both very good teams. We played them earlier this season and it was a rough game for us. You can play teams that are more talented than you, but in the playoffs anything can happen. A win would mean we proved everybody wrong and showed them what we’re all about.”
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” Basileo added. “We’re going to come out hard together, the same way we always do and try to move the ball the same way we always do. Unlike a lot of teams, we like to play the possession game and rely on our passing. We think we can pass right around them and tire them out, which we hope takes their offense out of the game.”
Basileo is right in that Little Flower plays a more finesse game to Ryan’s power style. The Ragdolls will undoubtedly be the favorite, especially with the home-field advantage.
ldquo;We know they’re good players,” Brown said. “We know their key players the same way they know ours. We know their game just as they know ours. Even though we play very different styles, I think it will be evenly-matched and I think that we’ll want it more.”
“We worked the whole season for games like this,” Basileo said. “I think we have the best offense and defense in the league. Now, we just have to put it together at the right time.” ••