Before Sage Hill School slapped hands with Crean Lutheran at the end of the match, players asked about where the girls' soccer team stood in the Academy League.
"We're still in first place," Coach Mike Hammond said to his Sage Hill team after it tied Crean Lutheran, 1-1, in overtime on Saturday.
Then the cold truth set in on a cold evening at Sage Hill. Hammond, after talking with his team, found out Sage Hill is in second place, behind Crean Lutheran, which wrapped up league play.
With one league match left for the Lightning, Sage Hill is in a must-win situation next week at rival St. Margaret's if it plans to claim its first league title in six seasons. The school wouldn't be in this situation, if not for allowing Crean Lutheran's Maddie Beavers to tie the match in the 73rd minute.
Sage Hill is now 7-1-1 in league, good for 22 points, two behind Crean Lutheran. The Saints, who are 7-0-3 in league, will find out how league plays out on Thursday.
"No coach likes to wait and hope that one of their opponents beats another one of their opponents to get [the league title], but it's going to be a battle at St. Margaret's," said Dennis Guerra, Crean Lutheran's coach. "If Sage Hill plays big, [it will] get [its] Academy League championship, and if St. Margaret's steps up, [the Tartans will] help us out."
The Saints kept themselves atop the league. They dominated possession for most of the second half and in the two 10-minute overtime periods.
Meghan Shoemaker set the game-tying goal up, sending a long ball to Beavers on the right side. Beavers got to the ball, beating the defense and then goalkeeper Kekai Whitford, who came out to stop the shot to no avail.
"We should've won in regulation," Hammond said. "We played hard. We played well. But at the same time, you know, in games like this, you got to limit your mistakes, and we had the one mistake. I think it was a little bit of miscommunication and a little bit of positioning on our defense. I think if we just sit back, because you know they're going to play a long ball every time … we're going to get it every time."
The breakdown cost the Lightning. Sage Hill tried to hold off Crean Lutheran, hoping Paige Burke's goal in the 35th minute would hold up as the difference.
Burke played hurt. Four days before the critical match, the junior said she tweaked her right knee, the same knee she tore a year ago.
Burke wore a knee brace, but that didn't prevent her from going into traffic. She got to a ball keeper Kaycee Morgan fumbled in the box and Burke made her pay, kicking the ball in to put the Lightning ahead.
"I really wanted to play in this game," said Burke, who has sat out matches this season because of her knee. "I was not going to miss this game, no matter what."
Sage Hill is going to need Burke at St. Margaret's on Thursday. She produced both of Sage Hill's goals in its 2-1 win against the defending league champion Tartans on Jan. 24.
"I think we definitely can," Burke said of defeating St. Margaret's again, this time to claim the league title. "I think we're stronger than St. Margaret's."