ERIE — Despite losing a good chunk of its scoring production from last season, Erie rallied to host the program’s first playoff game in its eight-year history on Wednesday night. It wasn’t meant to last, however, as the Class 4A No. 15 seed Tigers fell to the visiting No. 18 Green Mountain Rams, 2-1.
Green Mountain delivered the go-ahead goal on a free kick opportunity in the 53rd minute to put an end to Erie’s 10-5-1 season.
While the early exit certainly stung, Erie was coming off a 5-5 2021 campaign and had to quickly develop a young roster, so the chance to host a playoff game remained a proud achievement for head coach Jeff Vigil.
“At the beginning of the season if you would have told me we will be hosting a playoff game, I would have been jumping for joy,” Vigil said. “We lost to a good Green Mountain team by one goal in our first playoff game that these guys earned.”
As one would expect in a closely seeded matchup, neither team dominated possession during the first half. Both defenses played strong and kept the ball mostly glued near midfield. Erie junior Leah Price delivered a non-threatening shot on goal in the ninth minute and five minutes later, Green Mountain couldn’t complete a pass to an open Ram in the box.
An excellent scoring opportunity presented itself for Erie in the 23rd minute after a Ram defender collided with Tiger senior Lucy Weber. Erie was rewarded a penalty kick that was cashed in by junior Arianna Caffarelli.
But with just over 10 minutes remaining in the half, Erie returned the favor and gave Green Mountain its own penalty kick that found net. The 1-1 deadlock remained at the break.
Green Mountain opened the second half strong and capitalized on a chaotic free kick play in the 53rd minute to net the ultimate go-ahead goal.
The Tigers’ speed created a few breakaway opportunities late, but they were unable to find the equalizer. Vigil said Erie struggled to find space in the midfield and couldn’t execute any of their rare open looks.
“It’s a learning experience,” Vigil said. “I thought there were some lessons that we definitely learned, and we grew in the game, we got better. I think if the game goes on another five or 10 minutes, we equalize. But unfortunately, we don’t get that.”
Price, like Vigil, fought through the emotions of a disappointing finish and saw a bigger picture.
“I’m happy with this season. Me and my team fought really, really hard and got really close,” said Price, who led the Tigers with 13 goals in the regular season. “It’s sad because the seniors are graduating and stuff, but I feel like overall I’m OK … it’s just sad.”
While Erie begins to regroup for next season, Green Mountain will advance to play No. 2 Evergreen in the second round on Saturday.