Story by John Blake
Photos by Steve Kurucz
The run is over.
Magnificat's magical ride through the 2013 girls soccer postseason came to a bittersweet end Tuesday night during the Blue Streaks' 1-0 loss to Walsh Jesuit in the OHSAA Division I state semifinals at Revere High School.
It was another big win for Walsh Jesuit, a perennial high school soccer powerhouse that is now 19-0-3 on the season. The Warriors will move on to Friday night's state championship game.
So as hard to swallow as the loss might have been for the Blue Streaks, there was certainly no shame in being eliminated by a Warriors team which hasn't lost since Nov. 9, 2011, according to Magnificat head coach Gretchen Micklitsch.
"They have a long tradition of going to state and winning the championship," Micklitsch said. "It's a tough, tough team. We thought maybe this could be our year."
Magnificat, which closed out its season at 16-5-1, gave Walsh all it could handle for over 75 minutes before the Warriors broke through for the game's only goal.
Senior midfielder Jessica Hlosek tapped in a cross pass from fellow senior midfielder Alex Kithcart with just 4:55 remaining to end what was a back-and-forth and physical match.
Both teams had plenty of scoring opportunities. It was just what playoff soccer should be all about, with high energy and intensity and fast tempo up and down InfoCision Field.
The aggressive nature didn't surprise Micklitsch, whose squad gave the Warriors one of their three ties during the regular season. Magnificat junior goalie Kayleigh Piscioneri made a handful of impressive saves, and the Blue Streak defense did all it could to keep the Warriors out of the net.
But the Blue Streaks just couldn't hold them off long enough. Walsh recorded 11 shots on goal to Magnificat's four.
"It was pretty much what I expected," Micklitsch said. "It's just a constant barrage of those long balls to the front, and it's hard for 80 minutes to keep that off. We had lots of opportunities, so that's how it goes."
Whether or not the inexperienced Blue Streaks were wide-eyed coming into their first ever state semifinal appearance, they didn't show it. They played on par with the Warriors and didn't seem one bit intimidated by their unbeaten opponent.
Bottom line, Magnificat pretty much had nothing to lose in the contest, according to Micklitsch.
"We tied them in the regular season so we were feeling good about that," she said. "And I think we were feeling the pressure was more on them than us.
"We were feeling like the underdogs a little bit so the pressure is on them to hold their position as a team that hasn't lost since 2011 or whatever it was. We tried to just come out and play our game and I think the girls did a great job," she added.
Piscioneri finished with 10 saves, and Walsh's Libby Grace had four stops.
While many Blue Streak players were understandably being consoled following the heartbreaking loss, Micklitsch tried to focus on the positives of what was an historic season for the program.
"Tough loss. All I can say is I'm so proud of my girls," Micklitsch said. "I just want to make sure they don't forget all the great things that happened for us this season.
"It's a tough way to lose with you being so close," she added.
Walsh Jesuit, now 19-0-3, will go for a second straight state championship Friday night when it faces Mason at Columbus Crew Stadium.
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