BY JEFF FALK
MILLERSBURG – It’s a good thing that getting there is half the fun. Because the ‘there’ was no picnic.
It’s a good thing the journey in more important than the destination. Because the landing place was brutally anti-climactic.
Annville-Cleona enjoyed a memorable girls’ soccer campaign this fall. But the ending will be easily forgettable.
On Monday night at Millersbug High School, the Little Dutchmen’s historic run to their first-ever District Three Class A playoff appearance ended with a deflating 4-1 opening-round loss to the host Indians. After Annville-Cleona had taken a 1-lead to the intermission, Millersburg scored on its first four shots of the second half to burst the Little Dutchmen’s bubble.
The loss ended ninth-seeded Annville-Cleona’s season at 12-7. Earlier this season, in the Sept. 20th opening round of the Upper Dauphin tournament, Annville-Cleona had defeated the same Millersburg outfit 2-1.
The triumph sent the eighth-seeded Indians to 13-4-1 overall and into a Thursday match-up at top-seeded Trinity.
Scoring on four of their ten shots, Millersburg was deadly efficient.
“Their goal was to make it to districts,” said Annville-Cleona fourth-year head coach Lisa Schuyler of her troops. “Making it to districts was huge. Winning tonight would’ve been gravy. We did what we needed to do to win. But it would’ve been icing on the cake.
“The best thing about the season was definitely hitting our number of wins, and beating teams we shouldn’t have beaten,” added Schuyler. “We proved a lot of people wrong. All the newspapers said we would finish last in our section and not make it to districts. It’s fun to defy the odds. They (her players) were underdogs all season long.”
After weathering an early Indian hurricane in which Millersburg buzzed around the Little Dutchmen net during the opening ten minutes, Annville-Cleona scored first, on its initial attempt of the evening, 16:54 to go before half. The tally was created by sophomore Reagan Hess’ speed down the right sideline.
After beating her defender with quickness and her right foot, Hess slid a well-placed cross into the Millersburg goal mouth. Little Dutchman Jessica Crosson and the Inidan goalkeeper came together at the ball at the same time, but Crosson out worked her for the ball, kept her feet and momentum going and then hit a simple right-footed touch into the back of the open net.
A minute later, Annville-Cleona missed an opportunity to go up 2-0 when one of its attackers rifled a dangerous 30-yard restart just over the crossbar. It would prove to be Annville-Cleona’s last best opportunity of the evening.
“It was a breakaway to the outside,” said Schuyler of Crosson’s tally. “It was a nice cross and a nice finish. We were where we were supposed to be. Jess was there and put it towards the goal.
“When it’s your first district game, you come in with emotions and nerves,” Schuyler continued. “For us to score first was huge. But they (the Indians) wanted it. Their experience – or our inexperience – took over. There were a couple of things we could’ve done differently, but we’re not going to change the game plan.”
The entire second half belonged to Millersburg. The Indians needed just two minutes of action to tally a pair of goals 1:25 apart, including the eventual game-winner.
First, Maddie Chubb split the Little Dutchmen defense, drew A-C keeper Anna Soliday to her and chipped a short ball over her head and into the net. Then from the left side, Taylor Miller used her left foot to beat Soliday with a low shot, one that appeared Soliday had a hard time locating.
“Coming into the second half, we knew they were going to come out for blood,” said Schuyler of the Indians. “Getting down 1-0 at halftime was the worst thing that could’ve happened to their team. Their girls just ran hard to the ball. We couldn’t hold it. We were lucky enough to hold them off in the first half. They took it to us.
“They’re (the Indians) quick. They’re fast. And they broke through our center,” added Schuyler. “We’re injured. We’re tired. I could make up a hundred excuses. But they’re (the Indians) good, and they had girls finish the ball when they needed to finish the ball.”
Millersburg added their initial insurance tally nine minutes later, when Abby Schieb collected a loose ball just outside the Annville-Cleona box and perfectly placed a 30-yard right-footer into the top right-hand corner of the net. The Indians closed out the scoring with 13:34 to go, as Kylee Atland found a wide-open Chubb on the right side, and Chubb made no mistakes.
“How many times has Millersburg been in districts?,” asked Schuyler rhetorically. “They know the game. They know the drill. They’ve been here before.
“To triple our wins is awesome,” Schuyler added. “And to know that 90 percent of the girls who were on the field tonight will be back next year is awesome. To make it here is the most important thing to them. We have no reason to hang our heads. These girls did better than anyone would’ve expected.”
Millersburg, which was awarded five corner kicks to Annville-Cleona’s one, doubled the Little Dutchmen’s shot output.