LYNN, Mass. –- After experiencing the joys of a penalty shootout victory in the sectional final, Division 3 South champion Cardinal Spellman felt the lows that PK’s can also offer, losing to the Georgetown Royals 3-1 on penalties for a 2-1 loss.
“We knew if we went to PK’s we’d have it,” said Georgetown head coach Chris DiFranco. “We were very confident heading into PK’s and we took it home”
Spellman (22-1-0) could have been up 2-0 inside the games first five minutes. Senior forward Ryan Walsh was just off the mark two minutes into the match, but he made up for his early miss by slotting home his next shot in the 4th minute for an early 1-0 lead.
After the early, tally Georgetown (19-1-3) picked their game up and held the Cardinals goalless the rest of the way.
“We came out a little flat, but we woke up after the first goal,” said Royals goalkeeper Ben Warren.
Georgetown senior Matt Bitchell ran the midfield for large portions of the match, and created several scoring opportunities for his team. But the one that matter the most came just 7:50 from the final whistle.
Bitchell whipped in a cross that skipped all the way through the Cardinals' penalty area, and senior forward Chris Birnie was on the back post to smash home the goal, tying the game at one.
“I’m just always ready for that,” said Birnie about being on the end of Bitchell’s cross. “There has been so many plays this year where the loose ball comes out, and you don’t want to regret not making that extra run for that ball.”
DiFranco had high praise for Bitchell’s state semi-final performance.
“He’s a two-year captain, a four-year varsity starter, he’s an unbelievable player, and he comes and brings it everyday," DiFranco said. "He can play any position on the field. Today we had him playing striker, midfield and it gave them fits, because you can’t guard him.”
Bitchell was always confident his team was going to find the equalizer.
“The early goal woke our team up, we knew we had to get back in it, so we just kept playing hard, we knew it would come.”
After two scoreless overtimes the teams headed to a shootout.
Bitchell, Andrew Nowak and Ben Noelk all kept their composure and buried their penalties for Georgetown. But it was their keeper, senior Ben Warren, who stole the show during the shootout, stopping three of the four shots he faced.
Cardinal Spellman’s effort can’t be overstated enough. It was their third game in four days with the last two ending in double overtime shootouts.
“Their one of the hardest working groups I’ve ever coached,” Cardinals head coach Mike Gerrish said of his 2011 squad. “I’m real proud not just of what they’ve showed us in the tournament, but what they’ve showed us all year.”
Georgetown will travel to Worcester on Friday to play Sutton for the division three state championship.