There was shock, followed by a saturation of sadness. There was, however, no explanation.
A match which, expectedly, played out to a scoreless draw for 78 minutes came down to controversy with 90 seconds left in the Division II girls soccer semifinals, and with it, Notre Dame's season ended with a proverbial punch in the gut.
Tucson Catalina Foothills was on the happy end of Wednesday's 1-0 victory over the Saints at Paradise Valley H.S., though afterward, even Foothills' coach Charlie Kendrick sounded surprised at how things played out with 90 seconds left in regulation.
The match was scarce on significant scoring chances for both sides, similar to the schools' previous meeting (a 1-1 tie early in the season). No. 10-seeded Notre Dame had a couple shots from close range early in the first half, but Catalina Foothills seized some momentum and controlled possession for most of the second half.
A Foothills' throw-in led to a cross and a shot by Amber Measley. Notre Dame goalkeeper Meredith Reinhardt - whose six saves included a body block from point-blank range in the first 10 minutes of the match - went up and had her hands on the ball, but Aleah Strength had also gone up in the air to attempt a header.
A second after Reinhardt's hands corralled the ball, Strength collided with her, the ball popped out of Reinhardt's hands as she and the ball went into the goal.
Neither side was given an explanation as to why the goal stood, but it did.
“I’m not saying we should have won, but we shouldn’t have lost on that. You try to preach to the kids not to talk to the officials, but this was a tough one. They (Catalina Foothills) are a fantastic team. We had our chances early, and they were on offense in the second half,’’ Saints coach Gary Gregory said while his players sat nearby with emotions free-flowing.
"That could have easily been a foul as much as a goal," Kendricks said. "...I'm sure they feel very disappointed, and they would have been a great representative in the championship."
Instead, No. 3 Catalina Foothills will play on Saturday morning at Campo Verde H.S.
Reinhardt's save in the earlygoing and a couple other Foothills' chances gave way late in the first half to some Notre Dame momentum. The Saints couldn't get All-State forward Madison Reisdorf as many chances to create havoc as she normally does, but Kassidy Madrigal and Michelle Mahoney had opportunities midway through the first half and the second half.
But a couple shots either hit the crossbar or barely went over, and another was blocked.
Though crushed by the circumstances behind this outcome, and Saints lose the dynamic Reisdorf to graduation (she's playing at Southern Methodist University next fall), but are loaded with underclassmen (including Reinhardt who's a freshman).
That could be a good thing moving forward given the Saints beat Div. I powerhouse Pinnacle, and barely lost to Desert Vista in tournaments.
"As a coach the good thing that could come out of this is we're so young," Gregory said. "Not that the kids want to hear anything about it right now."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.