Despite temperatures that flirted with the freezing mark, there were warm hugs and embraces Wednesday night.
The hugs and embraces took place among the members of the St. Rose girls soccer team.
The emotional scene took place after the Purple Roses’ 1-0 loss to Morris Catholic in the NJSIAA Non-Public B State championship match on the artificial surface at The College of New Jersey.
Despite tears, junior defender Ashley Candeletti hugged her teammates. One recipient of an embrace was senior defender Shauna Barry.
“Tough one, tough one,” Candeletti told Barry, another teammate who was in tears.
“This is terrible,” Candeletti said. “We played our hearts out. Hand it to them. They played great, too.”
The Purple Roses surrendered the winning goal with 3:04 left in regulation.
Senior midfielder Tara Sobierajski, operating on the right side, booted a corner kick to Rachel Mills. The freshman midfielder controlled the ball and headed a 4-yarder into the middle of the net past sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Nash.
“We messed up on one play,” Candeletti said. “We tried our hardest. We have never been good at covering people on corners. It was a fluke. We can’t blame anyone.”
“It came down to one play — one mistake,” St. Rose coach Mike Parshelunis said, “and we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”
St. Rose junior forward Lauren Gates entered the match with a reputation for cashing in on scoring opportunities. Gates leads the Purple Roses in goals (22) and total points (49). She had plenty of company Wednesday night when she received a hug and kind words from Candeletti.
“They knew who she was,” Parshelunis said. “There were three and four girls on her. We tried to get her to go one versus three and one versus four.”
Parshelunis said he was pleased with the play of his Purple Roses, who ended their season at 14-6-2. Morris Catholic went 19-2-3.
“The effort our girls put out tonight was terrific,” he said. “You are only as strong as your seniors.We lost 16 seniors to graduation from last year’s team.”