BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – If someone would’ve told the Palmyra boys’ soccer team at the beginning of the season that it would reach the District Three Class AA title match, it would’ve taken it.
Fast forward to November, and simply getting there isn’t good enough.
On Saturday evening at Hersheypark Stadium, the Cougars were shut down and shut out by Lancaster Mennonite 1-0, in the District Three championship game. Palmyra experienced difficulties generating any sort of offensive continuity, and was ultimately done in by the game’s only goal early in the second half.
The loss dropped Palmyra, the fourth seed in the Class AA bracket, to 17-6. Palmyra’s next action will come in the PIAA postseason, on Tuesday, at a site and time to be announced. Lancaster Mennonite, which improved to 21-3, has now beaten the Cougars four consecutive times, including an earlier 2-1 regular-season triumph at Palmyra.
“It’s been a real good season for us,” said Palmyra head coach Craig Tyrrell. “They (his players) looked forward to this. They expected to be here. They had high expectations for the season.
“It certainly seems like they (the Blazers) have our number,” Tyrrell continued. “Hopefully one of these day we’ll change numbers.”
After Lancaster Mennonite misfired on a number of opportunities in the first 40 minutes of action, the Blazers converted their first shot of the second half.
A nice through-ball from Caleb Cole sent teammate C.J. Sturges into the left side of the box. With Nate McClellan coming out to meet him, Sturges used his left foot to roll the ball by the sliding Cougar goalie and inside the near post.
Sturges goal came with 34:16 showing on the game clock.
“I thought we gave them too much space, in the middle of the field, in the back and on the wings,” said Tyrrell. “They did what they wanted to do.
“They’re (the Blazers) a good team,” Tyrrell added. “Very organized. They played their game and they played it well.”
Palmyra had to feel fortunate to be part of a scoreless tie at the break.
“With McClellan out of position and 9:08 to go before halftime, Mennonite’s Mark Engle missed a wide-open Cougar net, after receiving a perfect cross. Earlier in the half, McClellan had come up big twice, on a pair of semi-breakaways, to keep the match scoreless.
“They’re going to be down for a little while,” said Tyrrell of his boys. “A few hours, and then they’re going to realize that have the state tournament to play.
“I thought we worked hard, real hard,” Tyrrell continued. “But we weren’t effective on the outside. We weren’t patient, especially on a field like that. We had to pressure the ball and be compact. This field is fast and larger than any field we play on.”
The normbally dangerous Cougars managed only four shots and just a handful of decent scoring chances. The Blazers collected a total of eight shots, while Palmyra enjoyed a 4-2 edge in corners.
“I think it was more of what we weren’t doing than what they were doing,” said Tyrrell. “We were going forward real fast. Three on five isn’t going to work well. You’ve got to go together. We had no crosses. That’s very unlike us.
“Tuesday’s game, that’s the only thing were focusing on right now,” Tyrrell concluded. “It’s (the PIAA playoffs) a one-game league.”