The tears rolling down the cheeks of Kelly Haslinger told the story.
Nardin Academy came up short once again in the New York State Catholic Schools girls' soccer championship game, the third time in the last four seasons it made the final and lost. But it was the way that the Gators lost that proved to be so heart-wrenching for the senior midfielder.
Nardin overcame a two-goal deficit against unbeaten Sacred Heart rather suddenly and had the Long Island Catholic School champions reeling. But the Gators couldn't surge ahead and Sacred Heart scored twice during the final 14:32 to win the championship, 5-3, before an estimated 200 fans at the West Seneca Soccer Complex.
"We could've had this game," said Haslinger, who scored twice and finished the season with 13 goals. "When we got it back it was just like that adrenaline rush. We wanted to score some goals again and get up but it was tough when they scored those other two. It's tough losing but we came a long way together. I love my team."
Sacred Heart's speed and determination proved to be the difference throughout this game as its defenders did a good job of containing leading scorer Natalie Hojnacki for most of the game and its lightning quick forwards caused fits all game for the Gators' defense.
Sacred Heart's Kaitlyn Zamroz scored the winning goal when she recovered a through pass near the 18 that glanced off a defender and booted it past a helpless Emily Urbanski (15 saves). Zamroz's speed also set up two other goals for Sacred Heart (18-0-2), including her team's first goal after Haslinger had given the Gators a 1-0 lead early in the game.
"I think that was a big turning point because this is their home field, they had the crowd, they had the momentum then," winning coach Chris Chruma said. "Who knows what would have happened if they would have held on to a 1-0 lead throughout."
Lauren Mastionardi and Elise Messina also scored in the first half for Sacred Heart, which had another potential goal waived off due to an offsides infraction.
Haslinger and Hojnacki (17 goals) scored in a 3:46 span midway through the second half to tie things for Nardin, which is now 0-8 all-time in the state Catholic final.
"It's a tradition for Nardin to go to the finals," coach Carlos Obiano said. "Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, we'll be No. 1. No. 1 is better than No. 2."