Mechanicsburg hosted Red Land in its soccer opener and bunched two goals within a minute to snag a 2-1 victory over the Patriots at the rainy and cold Northside Soccer Pitch Tuesday.
Mechanicsburg’s Monday night contest with Waynesboro was postponed due to the weather, so it opened with a very solid Patriot club that returns all-state player Katie Lippert and a fairly veteran squad. The Wildcats return eight starters from a team that qualified for the District 3 tournament last year.
The Wildcats controlled the first half with good ball control and had several key chances. Patriot keeper Jenna Cavrich was up to the task early.
Freshman Natalie Zelenky found herself one-on-one with the keeper just over 14 minutes into the game and deposited the ball in the back of the net for her first varsity goal.
Moments later, the Wildcats got a gift goal.
As a shot came toward Cavrich, she slipped on the wet grass and the ball found its way to the feet of Holly Burgard. Burgard’s finish gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead just 28 seconds after the Zelenky goal. The cushion allowed Mechanicsburg to hunker down and clear balls out of danger.
The Wildcat defense, led by Jodie Zelenky along with Rose White, Emma Galinski, Kristen Fisher, freshman Autumn Peters and Ariel Arnold from her sweeper/stopper position, just shut down the Patriots in the opening half.
The few balls that made it through the defense were scooped up by keeper Nicki Keiser.
The Patriots came out in the second half and had a quick opportunity as Marie D’Angelo ripped a shot from just outside the box that Keiser tipped over the crossbar. Jodie Zelenky cleared a ball from the crease on the ensuing corner kick.
Red Land (2-1 overall) started to process the ball through the middle and pushed it wide to spread the Wildcat defense. The tactic allowed Lippert some room to maneuver in the middle of the field. She was able to beat several defenders, but someone always stepped up for the ‘Cats to challenge her.
Lippert found D’Angelo, but the shot short-hopped Keiser, and Keiser gathered it in. Keiser’s ability to punt the ball gave the Wildcats some breathing room, as she routinely punted the ball into the offensive zone.
Red Land came within one goal as Lindsay Hoover found the net with a dish from D’Angelo. The Patriots were able to put some pressure on the Wildcats down the stretch, but the Wildcat defense stood tall and cleared balls down the field.
“It took us to fall behind 2-0 before we woke up,” said Patriot coach Jamie Miller. “That is what happens when you go flat and when you are not focused. They are tough to get through. Their defense is solid, and I will give credit to them because they were all over the field and all over us. We had glimmers. We had chances, but we didn’t capitalize on them. Two minutes was the difference in that game.”
“I thought both teams really battled hard,” said Wildcat coach Tony Lougee. “I was really happy that we kept the pressure on after the first goal and got the second one right away. I think our effort was good throughout, but I think we kind of lost our legs a bit in the second half. Playing out there tonight was like running on clay or sand. I thought all of the girls gave a good effort. This was a good win for us. Our youngsters played well.”
Red Land’s defense, led by Noelle Harner, Alyssa Horton, Hoover, Maddie Todd and Julia Keebaugh, played well in front of Cavrich, who only had to make six saves, none of which were tough chances.
Red Land hosts Cumberland Valley Thursday at 4 p.m. at Crossroads Middle School. Mechanicsburg travels to Waynesboro on Thursday for an evening match-up.
To read the article click by Jeff Kauffman on Cumberlink.com click here.