By Dylan Butler
St. Anthony’s senior forward Meghan McCallion had just scored her second goal of the game, giving the Friars a 3-1 lead over St. Francis Prep with 4:28 left in the game and all but icing the CHSAA Class A championship.
St. Francis Prep could have easily given up. But that’s not what the Terriers are about.
Instead, the tight-knit team again pulled together. Lynne Dunham scored 33 seconds later and St. Francis Prep desperately pressed forward for the equalizer before finally running out of time.
St. Anthony’s earned a thrilling 3-2 win Sunday at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, but St. Francis Prep never quit.
“That’s why this team is great, we don’t give up,” said St. Francis Prep senior midfielder Filippa Petruccelli, who valiantly battled through pain coming from a series of strains in her lower back to play all but three minutes. “We just couldn’t put it away.”
St. Francis Prep (8-5-2) can certainly hang their heads high. The Terriers not only played with league powerhouse St. Anthony’s, but dominated play for much of the game.
But with explosive forwards like McCallion and Kaitlin Schmidt, the Friars don’t need many chances to find the back of the net.
With the score tied at 1 and overtime looming, McCallion, who had been kept at bay by a stingy Terriers defense for much of the game, finally found some space and lofted a shot from 25-yards out over the head of Terriers keeper Christina Aqulion to put St. Anthony’s (16-1-1) ahead, 2-1 with 10:28 left.
“When we need a goal, usually we just toss the ball up top,” said McCallion. “And me and Kaitlin have a great chemistry together.”
McCallion scored her second goal exactly six minutes later, receiving a brilliant back heel pass by Christina Casali and beating Aquilon low from 15-yards out.
“I think we were able to make some moves,” said St. Anthony’s head coach Dave Prutting. “We moved McCallion to the flank, which we hadn’t done all year and that opened up some opportunities for us. She made things happen for us.”
The Friars had hardly finished celebrating its two-goal lead when the Dunham dramatically struck, lobbing a ball over St. Anthony’s keeper Kathleen Schwartz’s head from 16-yards away to cut the Terriers deficit to 3-2 and sending the loud partisan St. Francis Prep crowd into a frenzy.
“I didn’t know we were going to get that second goal, I thought it would go over,” Dunham said. “Both teams had a lot of chances, unfortunately we came out losing. We put up a good fight.”
The final 3:55 of the game was played at a frantic pace as the Terriers attempted to net the equalizer. It appeared St. Francis Prep would have one last great opportunity as Christine Lettieri, who tied the game at 1 for the Terriers in the 20th minute with a left-footed blast from 30-yards out, set up for a corner kick. But Lettieri would never get the kick off, as the final whistle was blown.
“The kids gave 150 percent today, but they just came out in the second half like gangbusters,” said St. Francis Prep head coach John Jenkins. “They threw us off our rhythm. Give credit to St. Anthony’s, they were the better team.”
Bristyn Davis put St. Anthony’s ahead in the 14th minute as she turned on her defender and scored low inside the far post from 16 yards out as the Friars, who have a 23-0-1 league mark over the last two years, finally won the league championship after losing 1-0 to Sacred Heart in a windy semifinal last year.
“St. Francis Prep had as much heart as we did today. I didn’t see them giving up,” Prutting said. “Both teams played hard,. I think we had a little more depth today.”
As for St. Francis Prep seniors Petruccelli, Dunham, Susan O’Connell, Cheryl Neaney and Ashley Canfarotta, their final high school game is over, even if it hasn’t set in yet.
“We’re really close, I’m going to miss them,” said Dunham, who attended a pasta party with her teammates at O’Connell’s house Saturday night. “Right now I’m alright. When I go home and realize I’m not going to see them tomorrow at practice, that’s when it’s going to be tough.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.