BY JEFF FALK
MECHANICSBURG – What’s the difference between revenge and redemption?
Revenge is outwardly focused. It’s a payback designed to inflict some type of injury on someone or something that we perceived has hurt us.
Redemption is inwardly focused. It’s making amends for something which has hindered personal progression or self-actualization.
Perhaps the only difference is perception.
On Thursday night at Cumberland Valley High School, the Palmyra boys’ soccer team exacted a measure of redemption, and by doing so continued down a road which it believes contains its destiny. In the semifinals of the District Three Class AA tournament, the Cougars thoroughly whipped Gettysburg 4-1.
It was the same Gettysburg club which had clobbered the Cougars 4-0 two weeks earlier in the Mid-Penn Conference playoffs.
Not only did the win secure Palmyra a spot in Saturday’s District Three championship match, it also qualified it for its fifth straight trip to the PIAA tournament. The fourth-seeded Cougars, now 17-5, will take on 20-3 Lancaster Mennonite, which dispatched Tulpehocken 1-0 in the opposite semi, at 5:30 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.
Gettysburg was the top seed in the event.
“It really didn’t matter who we were playing,” said Palmyra head coach Craig Tyrrell. “The objective was to win this game. I’m hoping I did well enough to channel my thoughts through them (his players). No matter what happened in the past, we wanted to win this game.
“That (reaching the disrict final) was the plan at the beginning of the season,” Tyrrell continued. “But we take it one game at a time. We never step on to the field expecting to lose.”
“There’s two aspects to the revenge,” said Cougar junior goal-keep, Nate McClellan. “Number one, they (the Warriors) beat us 4-0. The other thing was last year in the district semifinals, I made a terrific mistake, so I wanted to atone for that. What I said before the game was that this whole thing was about redemption.”
As has been their trademark, four different Cougars found the back of the Gettysburg net, including senior Michael Fuhrman. Fuhrman’s tally, which came midway through the first half and was assisted by Zachary Klein, would prove to be the game-winner, thanks to Palmyra’s unrelenting offense and the play of McClellan and his defense.
“I think we are peaking,” said Tyrrell. “We’re starting to understand things. I think we’re getting better. We’re starting to close down games and we’re more creative in the offensive third.”
“We played pretty well,” said McClellan. “This was our best game, I think. Our intensity was here.”
The Cougars needed just 4:44 of the first half to break the ice. Senior midfielder and captain Pat Hanosek got Palmyra off on the right foot and set the tone for the match with an unassisted marker that made it 1-0.
“That was key,” said Tyrrell. “It gave us a good start. And getting up on the them was important because they haven’t been playing from behind all season.”
“That (the district final) was the goal,” said McClellan. “We wanted to make it to states to keep the streak alive. But I’d say getting to the district final was our main goal because of what happened in the district semifinals last year.”
The Cougars may have eased off the gas pedal just a bit right before halftime, and Gettysburg made it pay. A Warrior goal 3:02 before the break seemed to shift momentum for the second 40 minutes that would follow.
“We kind of got sloppy the last 15 minutes of the half,” said Tyrrell. “We just had to tighten it up at halftime.”
But Palmyra stemmed the tide and any hopes of a Gettysburg comeback were dashed by Bret Haldeman’s tally that made it 3-1 with 17:06 to go. Just for good measure, the prolific Christian Rhine got in the act six minutes to round out the scoring.
“I want to congratulate Gettysburg,” said Tyrrell. “I thought that they played better than the first time we played them.”