Pope John Paul II's Cailin Harris wasn't able to finish her team's first soccer match of the season against GPS because of a concussion. The senior showed Saturday how much of a difference she makes.
Sierra Anglin had three goals and Harris added two goals and an assist as the Lady Knights advanced to the Division II-AA state quarterfinals with a 5-2 victory over the Bruisers. Pope John Paul II (10-4-4) will travel to face second-ranked St. Agnes next Saturday.
GPS, which loses seniors Simone Busby, Mary Woodruff Griffin and Olivia Fine, finished the year 8-7-2. Struggling to find some offense, the Bruisers scored only four goals in their previous eight games but got on the board first Saturday when Fine fed Griffin, who chipped a shot high and over the head of keeper Megan Mihaliak.
"I thought the first half was possibly the best half we had played all season," GPS coach Leland Strang said.
Griffin's goal held up until the final couple of minutes of the first half, when the Lady Knights struck twice in stoppage time. Harris got her first goal after fighting off a couple of GPS defenders, quickly turning and firing a shot past goalkeeper Busby to tie the match.
Harris, a University of Kentucky commitment, then fed a cutting Anglin for a goal right before the half ended.
"Cailin's first goal was a definite show of will," Pope John Paul coach Mike McLaren said. "I think her perseverance there made everybody else step up and play harder."
GPS tied the match in the 48th minute, when Izzy Phillips headed in a Josie Love Roebuck free kick from midfield, but the Lady Knights answered again with two goals, first on a goal by Harris when again she outbattled a GPS defender and scored. Anglin got a second goal in the 53rd minute.
She completed the hat trick in the 79th minute on a rebound, after Busby saved a shot by Harris.
"A two-goal difference is so different than a one-goal differential," Strang said. "We have a lot of young girls that hadn't been in that situation before. We were able to answer, but they came back and scored on us. You have to be able to channel those emotions after a big score and keep your head in the game, but that's hard to do."
GPS did have a few opportunities in the final few minutes, but Phillips had a shot that glanced off the crossbar, and on two occasions a Bruiser fired a pass in front of the goal but no teammate was able to get a foot on it for a shot.
"They are a superb defensive team," McLaren said of the Bruisers. "They close on you so quickly when you get the ball.
"I thought the only difference was that we had more finishers."
Said Strang: "I just don't think the end result shows the quality of how we played tonight. It's hard when you're down to continue to play as a team and not go at it alone, but the fact that we played together throughout shows the team that we are."