The Our Lady of Mercy Academy soccer team knew this day would come. In fact, if you asked the Villagers beforehand, they would have predicted it would come in dramatic fashion, just like it did Thursday.
OLMA was knocked from the unbeaten ranks by Vineland, falling 2-1 in overtime after a pair of goals from Vineland senior Wendy DeLouise.
“(Coach Gary Jost) says that all the time, that we’d get a loss eventually, it’s just hard when it actually happens,” OLMA senior sweeper Caitlyn Covella said.
As dejected as the OLMA (16-1) bench was following the game-winner less than four minutes into the sudden-death overtime, the Vineland (8-6) side was elated.
“I’m speechless, it’s a great, great feeling,” DeLouise said. “I feel like it’s a really big deal. We worked our butts off, we deserved it.”
Vineland tightened up after a goal from OLMA’s Vashti Williams in the sixth minute. The back line allowed just six more shots on net from the highest scoring offense in the Cape-Atlantic League.
With about 10 minutes left in regulation, the Fighting Clan earned a free kick on the right touch line about five yards from the corner flag. Freshman Peyton Lagerholm sent in a perfectly placed ball to the top of the six-yard line and DeLouise headed it home.
The game-winner came on a corner kick with Lagerholm lofting a nearly identical feed to DeLouise, who headed the ball down into the net.
“I was hoping it was going to go in the same spot, no one was marking me, I was wide open,” DeLouise said about the decisive goal. “And when I saw it coming, I was like, ‘OK, I’m going for this.’ And I got lucky and it went in.”
It was, ultimately, just two short lapses in an otherwise stout defense that ended the Villagers’ perfect season.
“We just lost our marks, they got free,” Covella said.
DeLouise scored her first goal of the year on Tuesday, so Thursday’s tallies were her second and third of the season, and her career. Before this season, DeLouise didn’t play due to various injuries.
“It was the right place at the right time I guess,” DeLouise said.
When Williams put the Villagers up early, it looked like OLMA would cruise to its 17th win of the season, especially considering Vineland has struggled on offense this year.
“We kept our heads up, we definitely did not give up,” junior defender Stephanie Alvarez said.
The game came after the 13-contest cutoff for the playoffs, but the win could still play a major factor in the Fighting Clan’s playoff hopes.
“It gives us confidence and that’s what we need,” defender Lindsay Olita said. “Before, we were .500, so now we just beat a team that has no losses.”
And even though there was little on the line aside from pride, the Fighting Clan came ready to play. The chance to be the first team to hand OLMA a loss was temping.
“We were so pumped up because everybody talked so much about OLMA and how good they were,” Lagerholm said.
OLMA was also without one of its top players, junior midfielder Sarah Buchanan. Jost said Buchanan, who warmed up with the team, wasn’t available for the game but wouldn’t give any additional information.
The 16-0 start was the second best for a girls’ team in CAL history (Holy Spirit started 21-0 in 2001) and the ultimate goal for the Villagers is a Non-Public B state title. But Thursday’s game still hurt.
“It’s not very fun, at all, especially because it’s our first loss of the season, it’s not like a normal loss,” Covella said.
And for DeLouise and Vineland, it wasn’t a normal win.