This was a season no one who witnessed it will forget.
Cathedral High School girls soccer achieved nearly all it could possibly achieve in 2020, doing so while overcoming adversity. That made it one of the most memorable and successful seasons in program history.
Missing the state title by the narrowest of margins didn’t change that.
“They deserved to have a championship at the end, but that’s not what was to be,” Irish girls soccer coach Marc Behringer said. “The girls just did an incredible job this year. No other team I’ve coached has had to go through what they did. Yet, they reached the pinnacle.
“They got to play in the last game of the year. That’s fantastic.”
The Irish, who entered the season with the motto of “Take Back the Ship” – which meant earning back postseason titles missed the season before – did so to a remarkable degree. They won City, Sectional, Regional and Semistate titles while peaking in the postseason.
The Irish finished as the state Class 2A runner-up, losing in penalty kicks (4-3) after a scoreless tie against Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger in the state title game.
“Everything the girls could do, they did,” Behringer said. “They won City, Sectional, Regional and Semistate and then not giving up a goal in the state championship game … I would say they accomplished what they could.
“I’m just so proud of the young ladies who stepped up and took penalty kicks. None of our girls missed. On all three cases, the goalkeeper for Dwenger saved the shots. The girls gave us a chance by putting the shots on target. It’s just how it goes sometimes.”
The Irish had nine shots on goal to five for Dwenger and Cathedral also had the corner kicks advantage, 6-3.
“We created the more dangerous chances during the match,” Behringer said. “The ball just didn’t bounce our way on that particular day. They did a nice job defending us and getting it to overtime and penalty kicks. At that point, it’s like flipping a coin.
“It’s a tough way to decide something, but that’s our sport. It’s tough.”
The Irish’s run was keyed by sophomore Kate Phillips, who Behringer considers the state’s best goalkeeper, and an 11-member senior class that Behringer said emphasized team over individual. Forwards Caroline Cline and Bella Dausman led the Irish in scoring with 10 goals and eight assists and seven goals and five assists, respectively, with senior midfielder Riley Maher, senior defender Avery Rowe, senior defender Ellie Schnur and senior forward Samantha Spellacy playing key minutes throughout the postseason.
Midfielder Lily Butler, defender Lauren Frank, midfielder Hadley Hendricks, goaltender Laura Lackey and midfielder Morgan Vukovits also played key roles as seniors.
“There were a group of seniors that did not play as much as they wanted,” Behringer said. “This group of seniors had as much to do with the success of this team as anybody who stepped foot on the field. It’s difficult to explain what that kind of role modeling does and the culture it sets up in a program.
“We had a freshman score in the state tournament. When she came off the field, it was a senior who did not play very much who was the first one to give her a big hug with a great big smile and congratulate her. That’s what I’ll remember about this team – that they got it.
“The coaches couldn’t be more proud of a group than this group.”
The Irish made it through the postseason after one of the state’s toughest regular-season schedules. Cathedral finished the regular season 5-6-3, then dominated the Class 2A, Section 27 tournament with a 9-0 title victory over Greensburg at Batesville.
The Irish then beat Brebeuf Jesuit, 2-1, in the New Palestine Regional semifinal. Cathedral beat Lawrenceburg 2-0 in the regional title match, then beat Siler Creek by a score of 4-0 in the Seymour semi-state title match.
“It worked out the way we hope when we build our team and we build our season,” Behringer said. “It’s a testament to the players given COVID and ‘Are we going to be in school or are we not? How would they handle social interactions and contact tracing and all of this kind of crazy stuff?’
“The girls hammered through it. We took our lumps as we figured out who we were. Then, we got to a point in the season where we found or identity as a team.”
The run to the state title game marked the fourth time in program history the Irish advanced to the state title match. The Irish won state title in 2007, 2009 and 2018.
“Regardless of the outcome of the championship game, this team was right there with the other three – especially given the fact we didn’t give up a goal [in the title game],” Behringer said. “Ultimately all these games, all these championships and all these trophies are really for a larger purpose anyway.
“Life is about relationships more than it’s about trophies. You compete. You want to win. Trophies are a sign of a level. But I think our girls reached that level. Moreover, they created the relationships and the memories that are honestly more important than a trophy.”