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Irish can’t handle Tigers

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Ursuline's Sering Limbu (left) and Springfield's Gianna Latronica (right) battle for the ball in the first half at Springfield High School.

NEW MIDDLETOWN — Between going undefeated through the first half of the season and being able to compete for a league title for the first time in five years, 2020 has been a significant year for the Springfield Tigers girls soccer program.

With a 3-1 victory at home over a strong Ursuline Fighting Irish squad, the Tigers started off the second half of the season on the right foot.

“I wish we would have played on Monday to kinda get ready for this one a little bit better,” Tigers coach Justin Kosek said. “But, Roy (Schmidt) does a good job with these girls every year. He’s got a lot of club girls coming up this year, and we just kinda knew that the second half of the season, that this was the one that was going to kick that off for us.”

“If you win, it kinda propels your season, you keep going. If it would have went the other way, we would have worked on stuff that didn’t go well, and either way we were ready.”

The Fighting Irish weren’t exactly furious about the loss.

Ursuline fell to (7-3-1), but despite the loss, Schmidt thinks this team has done well this year.

“It’s been a brilliant season,” he said. “Our only two other losses come to West Branch, a big D-II, and to Fitch, a D-I school. (We) tied Howland.

“Real satisfied with our season so far. The girls have been playing good.”

Springfield attacked Ursuline early on, but an injury to Tigers junior Mary Grace Mason, who is described as one of the heart and souls of the team by Kosek, paused play for a period of time around the midway point in the first half. Following the stoppage of play, senior Kylee Kosek drove down the pitch and found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

“After (Mason) got hurt, to score that quickly after that, I felt that it was a real mental boost to just keep us focused and in the game,” explained the senior. “It was really good for us. It really got us going again.”

Coach Kosek knew it was important to rebound quickly following the stoppage.

“With that long pause that we had there, when I came over and we put them back on the field, you could just see in their face,” he said. “Faces were hanging, heads were down a little bit, they were worried about her, which rightfully so. I looked at them and I told them to all look at me, and I pointed at my head and said get back in the game, and they all did.”

Later in the first half, junior Kylie Medvec netted herself a goal to give Springfield a 2-0 lead going into halftime.

“It felt amazing because Ursuline is a very strong team, and we don’t play a bunch of those,” she said. “They play very similar to us, so when we build that lead right at the beginning, it kinda tears them down because they know that they have to come back stronger.

“But then once I got that second goal, they just knew that they had to come back even stronger because we were up 2-0 now, so I just think it felt really good getting two goals early in the game.”

Springfield junior Brianna Holt scored at the 17:40 mark in the second half to round out the scoring for the home team. Ursuline sophomore Olivia Puhalla recorded a successful penalty kick minutes later for the Fighting Irish’s lone score.

Grace Venturella tallied two out of the Tigers’ three assists, with Kosek recording the third. Springfield goalkeeper Caitlin Cappelli chalked up seven saves, with Ursuline keeper Tanner Schade making nine.

With the MVAC absorbing some of the former AAC Blue Tier schools, the conference now has girls soccer with Springfield and Waterloo, which previously were the only two MVAC schools that fielded teams. This allows the Tigers to compete for league titles after being without a league for several years.

The motivation of winning a conference title has led Springfield to a 9-0 record, and Kylee Kosek added this team has a special bond.

Out of the 11 girls in the Tigers starting lineup, eight have played together since third grade.

“Last year we had a lot of club players, but we had a lot of athletes too,” she said. “I feel like this year we have a lot of soccer players, kids that have grown up playing in the rec league, travel league, a lot of kids that play club.

“We’ve all played together since we were young, so just to have that chemistry from a young age, I feel like it really shows out on the field, which is how we’re so strong.”

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