Boys Soccer drops State Semifinals to Great Valley, finishes season 18-6

Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel/Photos by Jason Malmont, The Sentinel

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

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

For the full article, click here.

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.

Why Tony Lougee is a great high school soccer coach

Article by Bobby Warshaw, Pennlive.com

For the full article, click here.

If you ask my high school coach his favorite coaching memory, I know what he’ll tell you: it was a Wednesday night game, first place Mechanicsburg against last place Bishop McDevitt. Mechanicsburg won 2-1 in overtime. First-place teams don’t usually need overtime to beat last place. We played a flat game expecting to walk out easy victors.

Coach made us stay after the game and run sprints. He’s a tough guy coach so he loves that stuff. He would tell future generations about the time he made his first-place squad run line drills after the game.

“Slack off and see what happens.”

It takes guts to embarrass your star-studded team after a victory. He’s that kinda guy and he wanted everyone to know. It would surely be one of his crowning moments.

Until it was topped the next day. We sat on the bleachers before practice and we talked about the night before. How does a first-place team almost lose to a last-place team? He wanted answers. Or, at least, he wanted to set a clear message.

“Get your act together.”

Except he didn’t get the response he expected.

A player interrupted him mid-sentence, looks him in the eye and says, “No, coach, you are wrong. This wasn’t a low moment. It was an important moment. We didn’t almost blow a game, we united together to save a game.”

“What?”

“We could have wilted. A lot of teams would have wilted. We didn’t. We fought through it. That’s the sign of a champion. It’s not always going to be easy. We showed we can survive when it gets a little tough.”

“How dare you?”

The player looked at the coach then looked at his teammates around him on the bleachers. “You shouldn’t be admonishing us. You should be proud.” The teammates moved their shocked eyes from the player to the coach.

“You really believe that?”

“Yes I do. These guys played their hearts out. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. But that game took guts. Don’t you question our commitment. We showed it by finding a way to win yesterday. I’m proud of the way we got it done. Maybe we could have done some things better, but don’t you dare question our guts.”

The players around him sat up a little taller.

The coach smiled.

“Alright, go put your stuff on and let’s get to practicing.”

As much as coach wanted to show tough he is, he really just wanted it to rub off on his players.

Sports are about character, the same principles we use in everyday life: hard work, discipline, accountability, teamwork, attention to detail. If you show character, you give yourself a shot to win. If you show better character than the other team, than you have a good shot at winning. It’s a pretty simple formula, really.

Tony Lougee has won a lot of games at Mechanicsburg. Seldom has he had the most talent, less often has he emphasized playing the best soccer. Those things don’t interest him. Instead, he’s always had teams that showed a lot of guts.

He will rarely talk about individual performances or unique tactics. He doesn’t raise his voice for a bad shot or missed pass. Instead he prefers to yell at guys for giving a teammate a bad look or question players for acting like a cocky jerk (which teenage boys have been known to do).

“You don’t think he knows he made a bad pass? You think he wants to make a bad pass again? Then stop being a jerk to him and give him some encouragement.”

Mentality first, soccer second.

I had some great memories playing for Mechanicsburg. Pasta parties and pranks and big wins. More than anything, though, I’m grateful that I left better equipped for the life in front of me.

Lougee isn’t the perfect coach or person. But he’s the right guy at the right time for 16-year-old kids. A high school junior doesn’t need to know how to trap a ball. He needs to know how to push himself to new limits and to get up after he’s been knocked down.

I’ve never seen Lougee scream about a loss. His blood only boils when one of his kids takes a shortcut. I’ve been around better soccer minds (though not many), but I’ve never been around a coach that understands more about people.

Like teachers and sea-sunken treasures, good coaches are a rare commodity. I was lucky enough to have one in Lougee. I’m still pissed he made us run sprints after that game — God knows he’ll never let us forget it — but I understand the reason now.

He didn’t care about winning that game or the next one. The trophies aren’t his pride and joy. He cares about helping young men grow, get little bit stronger. Those are the accomplishments that make him the most proud. He’s that kind of guy, though surely he’s too tough to admit it.

This article is the latest in a series from Baerum S.K. player and Mechanicsburg native Bobby Warshaw.  To read more about Bobby Warshaw click here.

Boys Soccer downs CB East, Reaches PIAA Semis for First Time

Article by Michael Bullock, Pennlive.com

For the full article, click here.

HAMBURG — One well-placed restart.

Factor in a collectively resilient defensive effort — an effective performance that was in play for much of the second half — and that’s what the anxious spectators on hand Saturday at Hamburg High School’s chilly Hawk Stadium were treated to.

And when the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal-round contest finally ticked to a close it wasMechanicsburg that managed to fend off District 1-AAA champion Central Bucks East by a 1-0 count and move deeper than the Wildcats have been before.

Although Mike Fowler’s poke from the left edge of the penalty area in the 36th minute turned out to be the only finish registered, that tenuous lead hardly was safe as Tony Lougee’s club (18-5-0) had to continually find ways to defuse a CB East attack that kept charging and charging until the clock finally ran out.

“That was a real gut check, that game,” Fowler admitted. “They pressured us hard — especially that second half — but a lot of heart on our part. We really just stuck together as a team. We won that game as a team. It wasn’t individual. It was honestly a team effort.”

Brandon Diehl finished with eight saves — including a number of dandies — as Mechanicsburg bounced into Tuesday night’s state semis. Up next for the Wildcats is a 7 p.m. date with 1-AAA runner-up Great Valley at Exeter’s Don Thomas Stadium. Great Valley knocked off 3-AAA champ Reading 2-1 in another Saturday scrap.

Austin Prime posted three saves for Mike Gorni’s Patriots (21-3-0).

Flashing their high-octane pace throughout the opening half, Lougee’s Wildcats often had East on the backpedal. East also generated its chances, however, including a splendid crack some 16 minutes in fromEvan Vare that forced Diehl to come up with a big-time stop that kept a fast-paced game scoreless.

Yet once the 29th minute arrived, Mechanicsburg was really pushing forward as Alec Gehman nearly got on the end of a lengthy Fowler restart, Zach Shermanpopped Brad Powell’s service wide and Kyle Edgar also issued an off-the-mark shot.

Diehl also put the brakes on a Julian Klokner rip.

Finally, as the 36th minute arrived, Sherman was tripped up on the left edge of the penalty area. That brought Fowler and Joseph Panuccio together for a quick confab as to what approach to take with the dangerous set piece.

Noting that East was hardly settled defensively, Fowler opted to go for the gusto. And when his right-footed rip found the far side-netting, the Wildcats had the one goal they would need to move into the state semis for the first time.

“The keeper was still trying to set up the wall along his post,” Fowler said. “Jo and I talk a lot about taking it before that wall sets because keepers, they just aren’t ready for that. He and I were talking and he called for the layoff. That might have been the wise decision, but I saw the opportunity and I took a shot at it.”

“Mikey saw it and he couldn’t have hit it any better,” Lougee said. “It was a good shot. … A lot of people had good shots tonight, but you had to be near-perfect.

“And Prime is a great goalie. You had to hit a good shot to beat him.”

In retrospect, Fowler’s restart was the easy part.

Finding a way to fight off the Patriots was much more difficult.

East really cranked up the effort and intensity after the break, forcing the issue constantly while putting the Wildcats cage in peril repeatedly. While several early Patriots efforts sailed high or skipped wide, Vare authored a restart from a few feet outside the area that managed to get all the way through to the right post.

While the ball appeared to nick several Patriots, it never changed course. That allowed the scrambling Diehl to smother Vare’s pop in the 55th.

“He saved us so many times,” Fowler said. “I know our whole team appreciates him. Yeah, some key plays tonight by him.”

“I can’t say enough about Brandon,” Lougee said.

East manufactured another dandy opportunity in the 63rd, but Diehl stood tall yet again while denying Justin Chomik. Some 30 seconds after Chomik unloaded his blow, Klokner was turned away by the junior keeper.

Fowler and holding mid Zack Heller also were able to redirect several dangerous chances as the Wildcats’ 1-0 lead turned blurry at times — yet held.

Mechanicsburg nearly doubled its lead in the 73rd minute, but Panuccio’s blast glanced off the crossbar. Edgar popped a shot over the crossbar moments later, but that didn’t dim the Patriots’ passion as Gorni’s club continued to press.

Vare missed left in the 79th minute, but it was Chomik’s crack off the crossbar in the 80th that caused the Wildcats’ bench to exhale with caution. Not for long, though, asDylan Snyder was forced to absorb a shot that followed.

Moments later, the Wildcats were able to take a sizable deep breath. That’s when the clock finally reached 0:00 and the game was over.

“I think God was looking down on us on a couple of those,” Fowler said. “Key plays by Heller on defense and Diehl. … Heller and I both had a guy with an open look and we both got a foot in. Just an incredible team effort.”

Only then could they start to relax — and think about moving forward into Tuesday’s state semifinals and meeting up with Great Valley.

Their one first-half goal had stood up, but only because a collective defensive effort prevented the Patriots from posting an equalizer. Everyone Lougee inserted into the lineup, regardless of how many minutes they logged, was up to the task.

“It’s really a big help when you can bring guys in and you don’t lose anything,” Lougee said of his reserves.

“We’ve got plenty of guys that Coach will put in for 5-10 minutes and they’ll play their heart out,” Fowler said, mentioning midfielder Cade Alioth and Gehman specifically. “They’re ready to go and give our starters a spell.”

Snyder and Nathan Moshgat also made valuable contributions off the bench, while diminutive starter Jacob Huffman also drew kudos for his work centrally. BacksAnthony Panuccio and Kyle Flemming also performed effectively.

“I thought Huffman the first half was just phenomenal,” Lougee said. “He just battles and battles. … He’s been like that all year. He’s a nice player, smart.”

Now they’re all headed for the state semis — for the first time.

Mechanicsburg had been in the quarters in 1986 and 2005, when All-American Bobby Warshaw was in a Wildcats uniform, but that’s where it stopped.

“It’s the furthest a guys’ team has ever gone in Mechanicsburg history,” Fowler added. “I think it’s just a lot of excitement on our part and just a real testament of where hard work can get you.”

“All the messages I’ve gotten from Bobby’s team that played in the quarters [in 2005] and I played on a team in ’86 that went to quarters, everyone just wanted us to do better,” Lougee said.

“They just wanted these guys to do better than our team did or those teams did, so that’s what being part of a program or being part of a good team means. You want other teams to break your records.

“You want other people to do well.”

BULLOCK ON TWITTER: @thebullp_n


Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

HAMBURG — Mechanicsburg got a restart goal from Mike Fowler late in the first half and its defense made it stand in a 1-0 victory over Central Bucks East Saturday in the PIAA Class AAA boys soccer quarterfinals at Hamburg Area High School.

The Wildcats, one of two Mid-Penn teams left in the tournament, followed up their 6-2 first round win over Abington Heights with a monumental task in Central Bucks East, the District 1 champion and a 2-1 winner over Central York in the opening round.

With the victory, Mechanicsburg will take on Great Valley in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

“We played very well tonight,” Mechanicsburg coach Tony Lougee said. “Each kid that came in there tonight did something well. Everybody wants to talk about offensive teams, but our defense has been solid all season.”

CB East had a couple of dangerous opportunities in the opening half, but Wildcats keeper Brandon Diehl came up big.

Mechanicsburg controlled the better of the play through the opening half. They spread the Patriots defense by using the wings and allowed Zach Sherman and Jo Panuccio to work the middle of the field. Alec Gehman also stepped forward with Jacob Huffman to create several nice chances.

Late in the first half, Gehman fed a long ball to Sherman, who spun around a CB East defender and was taken down right at edge of the box. Mike Fowler set up to take the restart and when the Patriots didn’t appear to be set, Fowler ripped the shot into the far corner for the first goal of the game.

“Unless I see something specific, those guys are able to figure it out for themselves,” Lougee said. “Mike saw whatever he saw and ripped it and he couldn’t have hit it any better.”

CB East came out a bit quicker in the second half, but the Wildcats defense held them off the board despite being under fire most of the half.

Both teams had chances, but both goalies and defenses stood tall.

The Patriots’ best opportunity came as Vare had a shot, but it glanced off the crossbar and bounded away.

As the CB East attack pushed up numbers, it allowed the Wildcats some opportunities to put the game away. They couldn’t despite several dangerous chances.

“I felt like we were under fire most of the second half, but we just needed to continue to clear balls out,” Diehl said. “My job is to communicate and make that one or two saves that need to be made. I just love my defense and I thought they played very well tonight.

“This was a huge win for us and we just need to continue to play our game and do our jobs, each one of us.”

Boys Soccer falls to Reading, Prepares for PIAA Tournament

Article by Michael Bullock, Pennlive.com/Photos by Dan Gleiter, Pennlive.com

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

When Mechanicsburg doesn’t play like Mechanicsburg — which typically means push, push, push the tempo and fluster the opposition — that usually means trouble is going to follow for Tony Lougee’s aggressive Wildcats.

And it did.

Conceding a pair of goals to Bryan Franco — one on a restart and the second on a turnover deep in its own territory — Lougee’s Wildcats dropped a 2-0 verdict to a quality Reading side in the first of two District 3-AAA semifinal-round contests Tuesday night at breezy Hersheypark Stadium.

Raul Zamora added two saves as Mike Cahn’s Red Knights (21-2-0) — Reading picked up its 13th clean sheet — sped into Saturday’s District 3-AAA championship game against Lower Dauphin. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

It’s Reading’s first trip to a 3-AAA final.

Brandon Diehl finished with eight stops for Lougee’s Wildcats (16-5-0) — including several dandies — who must wait until Saturday’s title game wraps up to find out where they’ll spend the opening round of the state playoffs.

“They’re fast. They’re like the fastest team I’ve seen in a long time,” Lougee said. “They make you make a decision. They make you decide whether to go back-and-forth with them or sit back and just try to hang on.”

For much of the first half — even though Zach Sherman’s header in the second minute sailed just over the crossbar — Lougee’s ‘Cats sat back and tried to hang on. For much of the second, they decided to go back-and-forth with the Knights. Regardless of the approach, Mechanicsburg never caught up.

Franco’s first goal — which materialized in the sixth minute when Oliver Calvo unleashed a restart from the right wing that somehow managed to spin all the way across the crease for a tap-in at the far post — caused Mechanicsburg to stop playing confidently and briskly as Mechanicsburg usually does.

“I’m sure this happened to a lot of teams that have played Reading,” Lougee surmised. “That first goal and then their speed, I thought, just took us out of our game. We stopped being aggressive and we were real tentative.

“We can’t play like that. So, until the second half when we started pressing again, we gave up 30-some minutes when we didn’t put them under any pressure at all.”

Plus, the Wildcats lost plenty of physical battles — especially in the heart of the midfield whenever Edwin Navas decided he wanted the ball and the sophomore they call “Man Child” was determined to gain possession.

Even if it meant wrecking an opponent.

Navas, however, is more than just a traffic cop.

Extremely talented with the ball at his feet, and particularly when it’s on his left, he’s another integral part of Reading’s devastating attack.

“Edwin is a key piece in that center defensive mid for us and that lets Oliver work in there at attacking mid, so that’s important,” Cahn admitted. “If we don’t have Edwin, Oliver can’t do what he does. That helps a lot.

“He’s great. He’s got great skills.”

All of Reading’s attacking players do.

And when the Red Knights are sitting on the upper end of the scoreboard, that’s a problem for the guys trying to chase the game and catch up.

“First goal’s always important, changes the game,” Cahn said. “We’re an attacking team, so it definitely helps us to get out there and get that goal. Kind of the complete opposite of the last game against Dallastown, where I thought we played great but we didn’t get the goal [until late in a 1-0 win in Saturday’s quarters].

“It changes everything. They’re a great team. They played great. It was a battle the whole way. We just battled for that second goal. Their goalkeeper was incredible. He made a couple incredible saves, incredible saves.”

Even before Franco cashed in the first time, Diehl had to dive to keep a Christian Garcia shot from skipping in. Even after Franco pushed the Red Knights in front, the junior netminder used his body to absorb a redirect from teammate Kyle Flemmingthat was struck hard enough to poke a hole in his belly.

Another Reading pop — Omar Guzman’s header off Calvo’s corner — glanced off the crossbar and prevented the Knights from expanding on their first-half lead.

Something they never did.

And while Mechanicsburg picked up its intensity after the break — Sherman had several chances go high or wide — the Red Knights continued to make Diehl work between the posts just to keep the Wildcats within one.

Yet when Anthony Panuccio gave the ball back to the Red Knights on a short, misdirected clearance, Franco pounced on the opportunity and cashed in.

That second goal Reading wanted so badly finally had arrived.

“Turn the ball over in the middle third against these guys and it’s just brutal,” Lougee lamented.

“They score a ton of goals. We score a lot of goals,” Cahn said, referring to his pre-game message. “We’re both attacking teams, so it’s going to be who takes advantage of their opportunities. We felt good.

“I wish we could have gotten the second goal earlier, but I give [Mechanicsburg] all the credit for that. Their defense and their goalkeeper were just incredible. Against other teams, we would have had that second goal in the first half.”

While Zamora received plenty of support from center back Bryan Alvarado and flank defenders Cesar Flores and Jairo Ordonez, he took care of a Sherman try in the 69th minute that appeared headed for the underside of the crossbar.

Lougee’s ‘Cats generated one more quality scoring opportunity, but defender Mike Fowler’s restart glanced off the right post and scooted away.

Reading was headed for its first 3-AAA title game.

“These kids, they just earn it, they deserve it,” Cahn said. “That’s what I told them before the game and I told them again at halftime. It’s their time.

“We watched ‘Miracle’ about three-quarters of the way through the season,” Cahn added, referring to the film about the United States’ ice hockey team winning the 1980 Olympic gold medal. “We took a day off when we were beat up and it was bad weather. I reminded them of the line in there when Kurt Russell says before the Russia game, he’s like, ‘They’ve had their time, this is our time.’

“These teams, Dallastown, Hempfield, Wilson, they’ve had their time. This is our time. This is what we’ve been working for all this time.”

And while Reading will be playing in Saturday night’s District 3-AAA championship game, Lougee will spend the next week or so trying to rebuild his Wildcats’ confidence while getting them ready for a trip to southeastern Pennsylvania — or, perhaps, a journey to northeastern Pennsylvania.

States await Mechanicsburg, too.

“I think these guys will be fine,” Lougee said, referring to the Wildcats’ first PIAA playoffs appearance since 2010. “They just need to remember that we need to be who we are and just play. There’ll be a lot of great teams in states.

“I hope we just represent well.”

BULLOCK ON TWITTER: @thebullp_n


Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel/Photos by Michael Bupp, The Sentinel

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

 

HERSHEY — Mechanicsburg was coming off a huge upset of Hershey on Saturday and traveled to Hersheypark Stadium for a contest against District 3-AAA No. 2 seed Reading.

The Wildcats couldn’t pull off that second upset and fell to the Red Knights, 2-0, in the 3-AAA semifinals Tuesday night.

Despite the loss, Mechanicsburg (16-5) still qualified for the upcoming PIAA tournament but won’t know its seed until the finals are played on Saturday. It will be the third seed if Reading wins the district title for the first time ever or the fourth seed if either Lower Dauphin or Central York wins the title.

“I thought we came out well but we started to back off a bit when they started to use their size and speed,” Wildcats coach Tony Lougee said. “They are very fast and skilled at every position and we couldn’t get much space and they had too much space. We tried to play too quickly at times when we had the time to settle and play. We have time to regroup for our next game next Tuesday in the state tournament.”

Mechanicsburg earned three corner kicks in the opening four minutes but its only shot was a header by Zach Sherman that just sailed over the crossbar.

Reading (21-2) started to get in on the offensive attack and Angel Orozco got a shot off that rolled to Wildcats keeper Brandon Diehl. On its next possession, Oliver Calvo was in the right corner when he was taken down. His restart sailed right through the crease where Bryan Franco was on the back post and tapped it right into the net, just 5:56 into the game.

“That first goal is so important because it can set the tone for the game,” Reading coach Mike Cahn said. “In every game you usually see a five-minute stretch where you just seem to be under siege and we saw it early. I told our kids we just needed to weather the storm and do whatever you can to not make it worse.”

The Red Knights almost doubled their lead moments later, with some assistance from the Wildcats defense. A short from Christian Garcia from the left side was deflected by Mechanicsburg defender Kyle Flemming. His deflection ricocheted off keeper Brandon Diehl, but fortunately Diehl was able to snag the ball.

Reading did a good job of moving the ball from side to side but wasn’t able to put another shot in the net.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats spent much of the half trying to free Zach Sherman down the middle, but central defender Bryan Alverado, as well as Jairo Ordonez and Edwin Navas seemed to limit space for Sherman, forcing him to go outside rather than inside.

Mechanicsburg came out with some energy in the second half but couldn’t get the equalizer, despite having several attempts. Sherman headed one wide and Mike Fowler ripped one just off the far post.

Reading took advantage of a Wildcats giveaway in the second half to take the two-goal lead. Franco again took a dribble past the right back and fired a low shot into the far corner for his second goal of the game.

“I was reminding our kids just before the game that no team is going to lay down at this point of the tournament and the winner is the team that takes advantage of a mistake,” Cahn said. “We took advantage of two mistakes and scored two goals.”

Reading played a physical, hard-nosed game. Navas and Alverado did an excellent job of containing the Wildcats attack and directing it away from their keeper. The Red Knights were quicker to most 50-50 balls and were able to dictate the game.

Boys Soccer bests Hershey, advances to PIAA Tournament

Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel/Photos by Michael Bupp, The Sentinel

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

MANCHESTER — Two teams who know each other very well traveled to Manchester to finish someone’s season off.

Hershey and Mechanicsburg batted for the third time this season and ended up in penalty kicks to decide the winner.

No. 10 Mechanicsburg knocked in all four shots while keeper Brandon Diehl saved two Trojan shots to win the contest 3-2 (4-2 PKs) over second-ranked Hershey in the District 3-AAA boys soccer quarterfinals Saturday at Northeastern High School.

Tied at two, the teams went to penalty kicks and Hershey took the first shot. Brook Briggs stepped to the spot and Diehl guessed right and made the save.

“I guessed right on that first one,” Diehl said. “You have to just try to adjust to the shot and hope you are quick enough to get fingers on it.”

Mike Fowler buried his shot before Hershey’s Tanner Therit and the Wildcat’s Jo Panuccio exchanged goals.

In Round 3, Ryan Sullivan and Zach Sherman, of Mechanicsburg, exchanged goals and in the final round Greg Ryan-Daylor’s shot glanced off the right post before Brad Powell stepped to the spot and buried the game-winner.

“I didn’t really have anything running through my mind because of what Brandon had done,” said Powell, a senior forward. “Coach Lougee settled us down at the half telling us we were the better team and we just needed to finish the game and play our game.”

Hershey got the quick start as Mechanicsburg didn’t clear a ball and Jordan Wix-Rauch ran onto the ball, took two quick dribbles and beat Wildcats keeper Brandon Diehl to the far corner just 2:13 into the contest.

Hershey had two other chances, but the Wildcat defense stiffened and met the challenge.

Mechanicsburg finally evened the contest as Zack Heller dribbled down the middle of the field and dished to his right where Panuccio ran onto it and slid it under Trojan keeper Coleman Dieffenbach for the equalizer.

Hershey again took the lead late in the half as Tanner Therit fell in front of Wildcat defender Preston Gould, but officials ruled the play a penalty kick. Wix-Rauch stepped to the line and drilled it right corner for the 2-1 lead with just 4:42 left in the half.

Mechanicsburg came out of the half on fire and scored the equalizer just 13 seconds in. Zach Sherman fed Kyle Edgar who lifted a short pass into space and Sherman was able to bury it to tie the game at 2.

“I thought the kids really played a great game,” Wildcats coach Tony Lougee said. “We just needed to get a quick start in the second half. I thought we played very well defensively in the second half and in overtime.”

The rest of the half was battle of wills and who was going to make the mistake or the great play. Bodies were flying to the ground as every ball was contested and challenged.

No one scored despite each team having a solid chance. Arthur Cronin ripped one over the top from close range and Sherman headed one just wide of the net.

Each team had a good chance in overtime, but keepers made the plays they needed to make.

“It is the worst way to lose a game,” Trojans coach Les Heggan said, “It was a great game between two teams that have had two battles all ready this year. We knew what they had and they know us, but unfortunately when you get to penalty kicks, anything can happen.”


Article by Michael Bullock, Pennlive.com

For the full article, click here.

MANCHESTER — Unlike the regular season — when games can wind up deadlocked, even after 100 minutes of play — someone had to go forward.

So when Saturday’s scrap between Mid-Penn Keystone Division playmates Mechanicsburg and Hershey was still locked in a tie following regulation and a pair of excruciating overtime sessions, penalty kicks awaited.

And when Mechanicsburg’s Brad Powell stepped to the spot with a chance to wrap up the shootout and send the Wildcats forward, he didn’t miss.

None of Tony Lougee’s Wildcats did.

Given additional strength by Brandon Diehl’s stop at the beginning of the all-or-nothing shootout phase, subsequent finishes by Mike Fowler, Joseph Panuccio,Zach Sherman and Powell propelled Mechanicsburg past the Trojans 4-2 in a thrilling District 3-AAA quarterfinal-round contest at Northeastern High School.

The game was tied 2-2 following regulation and OT.

Panuccio and Sherman netted earlier scores for Lougee’s 10th-seeded Wildcats (16-4-0), who dropped both regular-season outings to Les Heggan’s Trojans.

Up next for Mechanicsburg will be a semifinal-round showdown Tuesday night with third-seeded Reading (20-2-0) in the first of two at Hersheypark Stadium. The Red Knights edged Dallastown 1-0 in the first of three Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

Mechanicsburg also locked up a berth in next month’s PIAA Class AAA playoffs. It’s the Wildcats’ first state run since the 2010 season.

Jordan Wix Rauch posted both goals for No. 2 Hershey (20-2-0), which owned leads of 1-0 and 2-1 only to see Mechanicsburg pull even. And when Sherman connected just 13 seconds into the second half — Kyle Edgar put him behind the defense — a back-and-forth game stayed that way for more than an hour.

Then came the PKs.

And Mechanicsburg quickly picked up momentum when Diehl lunged to his left to cover a Brook Briggs try. Moments later, the Wildcats owned a 1-0 advantage after Fowler’s effort from the spot glanced off the left post and in.

“We were so happy after that [save],” Powell admitted. “Second’s always best. If they miss it, they know right away that they have to make the rest and we have to miss one. If we don’t, every time they’re going to get a little more worried and take a worse shot.”

While Tanner Therit and Ryan Sullivan followed with successful efforts for the Trojans, Panuccio and Sherman rang up spot kicks to keep the Wildcats in front (3-2) heading to the shootout’s fourth round.

That brought Greg Ryan Daylor to the spot for the Trojans, but his pop glanced off the right post, providing Powell with a chance to clinch it for Mechanicsburg — and send the Wildcats into the state tournament.

Powell didn’t miss, sticking his shot in the left corner of the net.

“I tried to keep my heart rate down, because everyone’s screaming and stuff,” Powell said.

“Once again it was Diehl who got us there. He’s the reason I had a chance to put it away. I just took it and got it.”

“He’s the hero today,” Lougee added.

Starting quickly and with a strong breeze at his club’s back, Wix Rauch staked the Keystone Division and Mid-Penn tournament champs to a 1-0 lead when he slotted a 10-yard shot past Diehl (3 saves) with just 2:16 gone.

Panuccio brought the Wildcats level at the 13:53 mark, sliding a shot under Coleman Dieffenbach (4 saves) after Zack Heller put him in on Hershey’s goal.

Wix Rauch struck again at the 35:18 mark, converting a go-ahead penalty kick set up when Mechanicsburg’s Preston Gould upended Therit in the boxAnd when Sherman made it 2-2 in the opening moments of the second half — after Edgar’s tidy dish — those on hand were treated to plenty of drama.

Both sides had chances, but neither could cash in.

Art Cronin was in midway through the second half, just a few feet from the right post, but Hershey’s senior winger skied a ball well over the cage.

“Arthur had a beautiful chance,” Heggan said. “He was 1 v. 1 with the keeper, but he tried to take the paint off the wall. He just had to go to the other side.”

An airborne Sherman was able to get his head on the ball with four minutes to go, but that effort sailed wide.

Hershey had another dandy opportunity midway through the first OT, but Sullivan’s restart from a step outside the box whistled into the Mechanicsburg wall.

Panuccio stood over a freebie with 12 minutes gone in OT, but Dieffenbach made a tremendous reaction save after the restart was redirected. And Briggs’ pop from the left wing early in the second OT was tipped over by Diehl.

“We had our chances,” Heggan said. “But they had chances, too.”

“At times we were too excited and we overran things, just passed a little too hard,” Powell said about playing the Trojans for the third time. “I think Lougee really calmed us down at halftime and we were better after that.”

“I think Sherman settled us down with that goal,” Lougee quipped.

Among the games within the game that really intrigued the crowd on hand had to be the Panuccio-Andrew Sullivan duel and the one between Nick Oggero and Sherman. Lougee also brought 6-5 Cade Alioth off the bench and into the midfield for quality minutes and put Alec Gehman at right back from halftime on.

Gehman responded with a strong effort against the elusive Therit.

“One helped the other,” Lougee said. “Being able to get Cade some minutes in the midfield — because that’s where Alec was getting a majority of his minutes early on — that allows Alex to help us out in the back where he’s a little quicker, a little more technical. … Therit’s a handful and I think he did a phenomenal job.

“I just can’t say enough about him coming in and dealing with him.”

And eventually the Wildcats were able to get it done in PKs and move forward.

Someone had to.

“It stinks to end it that way, but it’s part of the game,” Heggan lamented.

“We talked obviously about not wanting it to end — and everybody’s like in the playoffs — but the one thing is this group of guys showed that they’ve grown since the first time we played Hershey,” Lougee added. “I was just glad that they deserved to play a good game, a smart game, and we’ll see what happens.”

BULLOCK ON TWITTER: @thebullp_n

 

Girls Soccer powers past Palmyra

Article by John Tuscano, Pennlive.com/Photos by Dan Gleiter, Pennlive.com

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

Mechanicsburg is not only zeroing in on the end of the regular season, but the Wildcats are also locked in on a postseason berth. Now all that remains for the Wildcats is getting healthy and playing good soccer.

On the strength of a dominant effort up front from Megan Mansfield, host Mechanicsburg turned back Palmyra 3-0 Thursday night in Mid-Penn Keystone girls’ soccer action at Northside Elementary School.

Mansfield opened the scoring with a penalty kick in the first five minutes and assisted on scores from Sami Powell and Kyra Skurcenski as the ‘Cats (10-4-1, 6-4) solidified their hold on third place in the Capital Division.

Palmyra (6-8, 4-5), which is outside the top 20 of the District 3-AAA power rankings, is running out of time with just four regular season games remaining.

EARLY WILDCAT SURGE

The hosts established the midfield right from the jump and wasted little time in cracking the scoreboard as forwards Emma Strong and Linsday Humes worked a one-touch, give-and-go that led to the game’s first big scoring opportunity.

Humes touched the ball out to Strong on the left wing where Strong was taken down inside the box for a penalty. Mansfield took the resulting penalty kick and buried it past Palmyra keeper Katy McClellan (6 saves) to make it 1-0 just 4:44 into the match.

DEFLATING GOAL FOR PALMYRA

After spending the first 10 minutes back on their heels, Palmyra found its legs and began to put together a handful of scoring runs thanks to some solid play from senior mid Lucy Krikorian. Her restart just outside the 18 was headed towards Mechanicsburg keeper Kylie Peters (4 saves) in the 10th minute, but the shot hit a defender on the way in.

Later in the first half, Hannah Soucy and Hailey Ebersole both had shots inside the box and both were blocked by ‘Cats defenders before they could reach Peters.

In the closing minutes of the half, Mechanicsburg struck again as Mansfield carried into the box and slid a right wing pass for Powell, who sneaked a shot past McClellan to make it 2-0 with 2:37 left. Mansfield assisted on Skurcenski’s goal early in the second half to close out the scoring.

POST GAME REACTION

“It just wasn’t our night. We weren’t connecting like we have in the past couple of games. Mechanicsburg is a good team, a solid team with a couple of fast girls and they just beat us with turns down the field. I told the girls that we have four games left and we need to finish this season being strong.” – Palmyra coach Katie Stafiej

“I thought we did a really nice job of spreading out the field and we were able to keep possession a lot longer [than we did in the first meeting]. They’re a very talented team, but we kept possession and moved the ball side to side and down the seams.” — Mechanicsburg coach Sean Cochran

Volleyball edges Hershey

Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel/Photos by Curt Werner, For The Sentinel

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

MECHANICSBURG — The Mechanicsburg Wildcats volleyball team upset previously unbeaten Hershey by winning the final three games at Mechanicsburg Monday night by scores of 17-25, 25-15, 25-21 and 25-22.

The win moves Mechanicsburg into a second place tie with the Trojans, with both teams sitting at 6-1 in the Keystone Division race, a half-game behind unbeaten Lower Dauphin. The Trojans play Lower Dauphin tonight.

“This was a great team win for us,” said Wildcat coach Chris Fabian. “We have been trying to get the girls to play through every point to the end and try to take advantage of the momentum and their opponent’s mistakes. You just don’t know what to expect — you have to make plays and carry the momentum.”

Mechanicsburg (7-1, 6-1 Keystone) struggled throughout game one trying to string points together and keeping the ball in play. They gave away six points on wide, long, or net serves plus a few double hits and poor bumps, and the Trojans took advantage in game one.

Hershey led 7-4 and 9-6 behind the hitting of Allie Gemerek and Julieann Stanley, a 2013 Mid Penn All-Star. The ‘Cats rallied as Mikaela Calcara and Cassidy Krnjaic got several points and the ‘Cats went ahead 12-11. From that point, the Trojans outscored the home team 14-5 to take the first game. The majority of the points were Wildcat mistakes.

Mechanicsburg jumped out to a 4-0 lead and never trailed in the second game. Hershey got within two points twice at 4-2 and 6-4 as the ‘Cats found Allyson Fea in the middle and she took the game from there. Fea had five kills and four blocks, The key for the ‘Cats was their ability to keep balls in play and get a hit on the ball and let someone else make a play. They gained momentum early and never let up.

Brooke Serina, the senior libero, was instrumental at keeping balls in play and keeping the play alive. Kendall Bortner and Lindsay Brock were also key factors in the win as the ‘Cats kept their lead in the 7-10 point range.

The two teams went back and forth in game three until Heston Cowoski stepped to the service line. The ‘Cats were trailing 3-1 and when she stepped off the line the ‘Cats were ahead 8-3. Hershey rallied behind the service of Kathryn Conklin and Hannah Ferrara to take a 12-11 lead.

Mechanicsburg’s Brock downed one and then stepped to the service line for two points and the ‘Cats led 16-13.

Krnjaic had two aces late in the game and Calcara came up with a big block on the final point. The Wildcats had a 2-1 lead and had the momentum. Hershey helped out with five serves in the net or long in the final ten points.

Hershey again fell behind in game four as the home team scored the first three points. They extended the lead to 9-5 behind Fea and Brock, forcing Hershey coach John Zitka to take a time out. Hershey responded to his words and rallied to tie the game at 10, 11, and 12. The ‘Cats took a two-point lead but turned around and gave it right back, leading to a 14-14 tie.

Each team scored a few points but the Trojans were making the mistakes and allowed the ‘Cats to keep the lead. Mechanicsburg got a kill from Brock at 23-20 and a block from Krnjaic to lead 24-22. Serina took a set and fired a shot at the floor from the back line that found space to set off a celebration for the Wildcats.

“Allyson has really been playing well for us when we can get the set where she is comfortable,” said Fabian. “She is still learning how to adjust on a bad set or not in her wheelhouse. She does well at blocking around the net and it will be nice to have her for another year. Brooke Serina, our libero, has done a wonderful job at that position and we have had some positive senior leadership. We are looking for a big battle royale until the end with the three teams at the top. We still have each of them again.”

Hershey scores early, defeats Boys Soccer

Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

MECHANICSBURG — Unbeaten Hershey brought their winning streak to the Northside Pitch on Thursday to tangle with a one-loss Mechanicsburg squad and they knew they were in for battle but got an early goal and bunkered in to snag a 1-0 whitewash of the Wildcats.

Hershey-Mechanicsburg games have typically been hard-fought, physical affairs that usually turn on one mistake by a defense. Mechanicsburg (7-2, 4-2 Keystone) made the early mistake and the Trojans capitalized just under two minutes into the contest. Junior Tanner Therit beat the Wildcat defense to the left corner and crossed a ball back toward the six-yard line. His cross found an unmarked Jordan Wix-Rauch, who easily found the back of the net at the 1:48 mark. It was Wix-Rauch’s 12th goal on the season for the Trojans.

Therit and Wix-Rauch proved to be thorns in the side of the Wildcats all evening as they repeatedly got Therit the ball in the corner where he was able to use his quickness and tenacity to send balls into the box.

Wix-Rauch found himself with plenty of space at times, but his counterpart for the Wildcats, Joseph Panuccio found very little space. Freshman Andrew Sullivan of Hershey spent his entire game shadowing Panuccio and allowed him very little space, which led to some frustration on Panuccio’s part. He felt every little jab in the back, elbow in the ribs, poke at his ankles and every grab of the shirt that Sullivan used. But Sullivan was successful throughout the contest and held Panuccio to one shot on goal.

“They are a very good team and we knew they would be physical and fast,” Hershey coach Les Heggan said. “We can play them physical but we don’t have the speed or depth that Mechanicsburg has. They are well-coached and we knew we had to control Panuccio and (Zac) Sherman. Andrew Cronin did a nice job keeping Sherman in front and Andrew Sullivan did everything we asked him to do and more. He was the difference in the game.”

Hershey’s defense was physical but almost too physical. Mechanicsburg was awarded a penalty kick on a take down and Sherman’s blast beat Trojan keeper Coleman Dieffenbach but clanked off the crossbar and bounded away and with it a great chance for the Wildcats to tie the contest and gain some momentum.

The two teams went toe-to-toe the rest of the contest but the defenses proved to be up to the task and sent balls back up the field. Both teams also sport tall defenders who were able to head crosses out of danger.

Both keepers — Dieffenbach for Hershey and Brandon Diehl for Mechanicsburg — each totaled five saves over the final 50 minutes. Both teams had chances but knocked crosses wide or over the net.

Mechanicsburg came out a bit more aggressive in the second half but just couldn’t finish. Alex Gehman, Dylan Snyder, and Kyle Edgar gave the Wildcats some good minutes and transitioned the ball well down the field in an attempt to find Sherman or Panuccio. Brad Powell also got off two good looks but one hit the keeper and the other hit the outside of the net.

Hershey’s defense supported the effort of Dieffenbach, who did a nice job of communicating to his backs what he was seeing form the goal mouth.

“We had our chances and I felt we did a good job of taking it to them for stretches of time,” Wildcat coach Tony Lougee said. “We gave up the early goal but we had the chance to tie the game on the penalty kick and that could have been a different story if we score there. It was a typical Hershey-Mechanicsburg game and we expected that. We just didn’t get that finish.”

Hershey improved to 9-0 on the season and 6-0 in the division. They have defeated the top two teams in the division (CD East and the Wildcats) but still must face Lower Dauphin next week in the battle for Hershey.

Camp Hill Field Hockey prevails over Wildcats

Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

MECHANICSBURG — Both coaches in Saturday’s field hockey contest have been looking all season for a full game from their teams.

Mechanicsburg’s Kari Bianchi saw her squad looking good early on, but it was Julie Colestock and Camp Hill that turned in the complete effort, rallying all the way back to a 3-2 victory Saturday morning at John H. Frederick Field.

“We haven’t played two good halves back-to-back and I was happy to see how we responded to them scoring twice in the first half,” Colestock said. “I called a timeout in the first half because I didn’t feel we were being aggressive. I went after them and the goal we score in the final seconds was a key that changed the game.”

The Wildcats (3-3) had several chances as they rolled up four penalty corners in the first 15 minutes, but couldn’t put one in the net.

“We have struggled to put balls in the net and finish our opportunities,” Bianchi said. “We score two in the first half, but we gave up that goal in the final seconds that changed the game.”

Alexandra Rebman and Abby Martin gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead as they each scored within a three minute span capped by Martin’s goal at the 4:19 mark.

Camp Hill (3-2-1) got a crucial goal when, on a nice open field play, Syd Robertson found a streaking Hannah Zemaitis on the right wing. As Zemaitis ran toward the cage, Robertson ran directly to the far post for an attempt. Robertson was there for the tap-in and cut the deficit in half with just 1.6 seconds left in the half.

“These two teams play club ball together and they know who should not touch the ball and who should get the ball in certain situations,” Colestock said. “Our kids know that Kourtney Landis shouldn’t see the ball and we need to be aware of where she is at all times.

Robertson contributed to the second goal as she sent in a cross from the right side and Emily Nelson was in the right spot for the tap-in and the tie contest.

Rebman had two chances to give Mechanicsburg the lead, but both of her backhand shots rolled past the far post, missing by inches.

Camp Hill finally took the lead on a scramble in front of the net. The play was on the left side of the net and the ball squirted through to Linnie Trimmer. She was stationed on the far post and settled the ball and finished the chance and beat keeper Anne Becker’s diving attempt.

Mechanicsburg had some chances over the final 20 minutes, but Addie Guyer and Justine Colestock seemed to come up big as well as keeper Annie Kalpas who had four saves in the final minutes.

LIONS 3, WILDCATS 2

Camp Hill 1 2 — 3

Mechanicsburg 2 0 — 2

First Half

M- Alexandra Rebman, unassisted, 7:35

M- Abby Martin, unassisted, 4:19

CH- Sydney Robertson, assist Hannah Zemaitis, 0:01

Second Half

CH- Emily Nelson, assist Robertson, 28:48

CH- Linie Trimmer, unassisted, 22:10

Shots: CH 8; M 9

Corners: CH 5; M 7

Saves: CH (Annie Kalpas 7); M (Anne Becker 4).

Girls Soccer falls to Lower Dauphin

Article by Brett Keener, For The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

MECHANICSBURG — Lower Dauphin had spent nearly 55 minutes Tuesday night trying unsuccessfully to crack Mechanicsburg’s defense.

The Falcons had controlled the midfield for significant stretches. They several times came within striking distance of the Mechanicsburg goal. They had a handful of corner kicks. Nothing worked.

But just when it looked as if it would take an elaborate plan to break through against the Wildcats, the Falcons got a few seconds of brilliance from midfielder Madie Light — and that was all they needed in their 1-0 victory over Mechanicsburg in a Mid-Penn Keystone match at Northside Elementary.

“They did a nice job of shutting a lot of things down,” Lower Dauphin coach Nic Amici said. “Madie found a way. She’s got a high level of energy and she’s proved that. To come in late in a game and pull something like that off is testament to the preparation of a senior.”

Light’s strike came with 25:36 remaining in a game that had been scoreless. The senior had been in the middle of a couple opportunities early in the game, but the Falcons were able to put just one of their shots on goal in the first half against a stout Mechanicsburg defense.

The LD midfielder finally found a seam right down the middle though, and she scooped up a loose ball and dribbled through a line of Mechanicsburg defenders before uncorking a 25-yard laser that found a home just under the crossbar.

“LD’s a very talented team,” Mechanicsburg coach Sean Cochran said. “They came out very physical and very fast, but I thought we had some opportunities. They had some too, and they just finished on their opportunity.”

The Lower Dauphin defense took charge following the goal, particularly in the final 10 minutes. Mechanicsburg was held without a shot on goal over that final stretch, preserving the one-score margin and the victory for the Falcons.

There had been a fair amount of back-and-forth play in the minutes preceding Light’s marker, although it rarely translated to quality scoring chances. LD had the upper hand in the midfield early, but Mechanicsburg’s defensive group of Natalie Logan, Courtney Andrews, Amanda Crecelius and Erin Jones — with help from mid Megan Mansfield — choked off any LD momentum in the final third.

“If it’s 0-0 or 1-0, you’re in games,” Cochran said. “We’ve got three seniors back there in Courtney, Erin and Amanda that have just been awesome. They fought. We’ve got a young team in the midfield and up top, so our defense has been led by them.”

Lower Dauphin finally got a shot on goal with 15 minutes remaining in the half, when Mechanicsburg keeper Kylie Peters was forced to make a save on a drive Savannah Mushinski had marked for the upper 90.

That was it for the quality scoring chances for the remainder of the first half, and indeed the only until Light finally put the Falcons on the scoreboard midway through the second half.

“This was a critical game for both teams,” Amici said. “Mechanicsburg is a solid team, so to come in here and steal this one from them was real important for us. There’s long road ahead, but it’s nice to get the first one.”