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READING — Having never having reached the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs, coach Tony Lougee wasn’t sure what to expect when Mechanicsburg took the field.
He certainly hoped it was the same effort his boys put forth on Saturday against Central Bucks East in a 1-0 shutout. He got the effort, but not the result he wanted. The Wildcats battled but dropped a 2-1 decision to Great Valley in the state semifinals Tuesday night.
This group has overachieved all season. Mechanicsburg (18-6) finished third in the ultra tough Mid-Penn Keystone behind Hershey and Lower Dauphin but managed to edge Hershey in the District 3 tournament and earn the third seed where they won two PIAA games to get to the final four.
“Nobody expected us to be here,” Lougee said. “I am so proud of the effort of this group. We started a bit flat but we adjusted to their pace of the game and created several chances of our own. This group of kids love to play soccer. If I called for a practice on Thursday most of these skids would be here.”
On a counterattack, the Patriots got the game-winning goal with 23 minutes left in the game. Colin Deitch took a quick dribble cross the top of the box and fired a rocket into the lower corner for his second goal on the night. Brandon Diehl got fingers on it but not enough to keep it out of the net.
“Our kids were here last year at 24-0 and lost this same game on this same field,” Great Valley coach Dave Moffett said. “They have had an entire year to remember this and kids like Kyle Hoops, Colin, and Jack Hajnik have spent every day preparing to get to this game and not have that same taste. It was a great team effort.”
Great Valley had the better opportunities in the opening half as Jack Feeney had a couple of rips that were saved by keeper Diehl.
The Wildcats scored first on their only opportunity in the first 15 minutes. Jo Panuccio lifted a ball between two defenders that Zach Sherman was able to blast past Patriots keeper Aidan Claffey for the goal at 12:07.
“Our scouting report is our kids love to knock the ball around quickly and play faster,” Moffett said. “I thought we did a good job of that and then we let down and they scored. Our kids responded well.”
Great Valley (19-5-2) had several chances but they were either just wide, just over the top or just missed the connection with a teammate.
But minutes later, the Patriots tied the contest. A scramble ensued in front of the net and the ball rolled out toward the top of the box. Deitch ran onto it and ripped a shot into the upper right corner to even the game at 15:28.
Mechanicsburg attempted to get Sherman and Panuccio involved late in the half, but the Patriots surrounded both with at least two or three defenders.
The Wildcats went up and down the field but couldn’t get the equalizer after the Patriots took the 2-1 lead.
“We had a magical season and somewhere down the road, it will in,” Sherman said. “Down the road, we will look back on this season and think about the great memories and smile about it as we head off to school or where ever we go.”
“It has been a fun season — this group of kids just doesn’t quit,” Lougee said. “This is certainly a stepping stone to next year for our youngsters.”
Article by David Bohr, Pennlive.com
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Great Valley could be excused for feeling a sense of deja vu before the PIAA Class AAA boys’ soccer semifinals on Tuesday night at Exeter.
A year ago, the Patriots travelled to Exeter for the state semis and faced a District 3 opponent.
In 2013, that ended poorly for Great Valley. Conestoga Valley knocked them out in overtime a game short of Hershey and the championship game.
Given an opportunity to write a different script in 2014, the Patriots took advantage and defeatedMechanicsburg 2-1.
Great Valley (19-5-2) will play Peters Twp., a 3-0 winner over Lower Dauphin, in the finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Patriots controlled play most of the game, but still trailed 1-0 to the Wildcats (18-6) untilColin Deitch scored twice.
His first score came after a deep ball was briefly knocked out of the box. Deitch took an extra second to get control of the ball at the top of the box and scored from 18 yards out, tying the game 1-1 with 24:22 left in the first half.
Deitch put the Patriots ahead with 23:14 left in the second half, getting the ball at the top of the box again, dribbling to his right and then connecting on a rocket to the net.
The junior midfielder nearly earned a hat trick with another solid shot with 11 minutes left in the game, but Mechanicsburg goalie Brandon Diehl scooped up his low shot.
Though the Wildcats struggled in possession time, they did have a few good looks late to tie the contest. Great Valley stood up to all of them.
“Any time you’re up a goal, you don’t have to expose yourself,” Great Valley head coach Dave Moffett said. “We’ve had enough games like that this to understand that. We sometimes gave up possession to get better [defensive] position.”
On a corner with eight minutes left, the ball deflected off of both teams and rolled toward the right post, where Aiden Claffey dove to make the save.
With 1:45 to go, Zach Sherman had a header in the box that was also going toward the right post, and this time Claffey went high for the stop.
On a quick surge up the field with time running down, Mechanicsburg generated another chance that resulted in a long shot by Mike Fowler going wide right of the net.
“Of course it was frantic,” Mechanicsburg head coach Tony Lougee said. “It was the last 20 minutes of a state game. But we possessed, got touches and opportunities.”
Great Valley had almost total control of the game in the first 12 minutes, getting a couple shots on goal and couple of other crosses in the front of the net that the Patriots just missed connecting on.
“We just wanted to play our game,” Moffett said. “Knock the ball around and make people chase us.”
But Mechanicsburg did get one counter attack and made the most of it. Jo Panuccio played the ball through to Sherman, who put a shot in the top right corner for a 1-0 lead with 27:53 left in the first half.
“I thought our guys did a great job adjusting to their pace,” Lougee said. “Those guys came out flying. What could have been a tough first half was an even first half.”
Mechanicsburg had four shots and three corners. Diehl finished with seven saves.
Great Valley had nine shots and two corners. Claffey had three stops.