ERIE, Pa. - The Lady Baron soccer team's historic season ended in a 4-2 loss to two-time defending champion Penn St.-Behrend. Franciscan's two goals doubled the number of goals allowed all year by the Lady Lions during conference play and kept FUS in contention for most of the game.
"The game was tough because Behrend is a high-quality team but our girls really competed well," head coach Clare McBane said. "There was only one good in-play goal scored on them during all of conference play. So for us to get two goals scored on them in play is really impressive."
The two goals came from junior captain Julia Cocozza and bought the Lady Barons back into the game after going down 2-0 early in the first half. Both Cocozza goals came from aggressive counterattacks, adding a new element to the normally possession-oriented FUS offense.
"It was the work from our two forwards, Jordan Byrley and Julia that made the goals possible; especially the work ethic from Julia," McBane said.
Down 2-1, the Byrley-Cocozza connection almost pulled off a huge momentum swinging equalizer on a long ball to Cocozza who made a leaping flick a foot in front of the oncoming keeper. Right before the Lady Barons could celebrate, a late offsides call nullified the play.
The game's other big momentum swing came when Behrend drew a penalty kick up 2-1 with one minute left in the first half. The Lady Lion forward went left and so did FUS goalkeeper Mallory Garthwaite who was able to dive low and keep Franciscan within one entering the half.
A goal in the 49th minute from Behrend made the score 3-1 but Cocozza answered, again reaching the ball just in time to poke the ball toward the net as her legs were taken out by the Lady Lion keeper.
A direct kick goal in the sixty-third minute put the Lady Barons down 4-2 and despite a valiant effort, they couldn't recover.
"The girls definitely left it all on the field," McBane said. "I told the girls, at the end of the day the played good quality soccer and gave one-hundred percent. They should be proud of that no matter what."
The semifinal loss brings the team's final record to 12-8, the best season in the young history of Franciscan women's soccer. McBane said the team's goal before the season was to make it to the AMCC playoffs. With a playoff win and a competitive performance in the conference semifinals, did that and more 2013.
"The beautiful thing about this season is we met and exceeded our goals," McBane said.
"I told the girls not to forget that. It's exciting because we've met that goal and we can set a higher one."