BY JEFF FALK
MANCHESTER – When one commits emotional energy to a single style of play, it becomes very difficult to change the direction of that momentum.
Scoring a goal against a defensive mindset can almost make another one inevitable.
On Monday night at Northeastern High School, in the semifinals of the District Three Class AA playoffs, the Palmyra girls’ soccer team surrendered a pair of goals in a time frame of 8:28, spanning the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime, and dropped a heart-breaking 2-1 decision to Northern York. Prior to that the Cougars had shut down and shut out the Polar Bears for 78 minutes of action – some of which was the result of Palmyra playing some ‘prevent’ defense.
With Palmyra protecting a 1-0 lead, Northern York’s Taryn Casey netted the tying goal with 1:18 remaining, on a 35-yard rocket – after the officials awarded the Polar Bears a free kick when it appeared Northern York had knocked the ball out of bounds. Then 7:10 into the extra session, Polar Bear Abby Searfoss converted a feed from teammate Hannah Mavus into the game-winner.
The loss denied Palmyra, the now 11-10 tenth seed, its first-ever trip to the District Three championship game. Instead, it will be the 20-1 and second-seeded Polar Bears which will take on top-seeded Trinity, which dismissed Wyomissing 3-1 in the other semi, in Saturday’s Class AA title tilt at Hersheypark Stadium.
Palmyra can qualify for its firs-ever trip to states with a win over Wyomissing in the consolation game.
“We didn’t play to protect the one-goal lead,” said Palmyra head coach Amber Miller. “We continued to attack. We pulled Maddie (senior striker Good) back into the midfield, but we continued to attack.
“The girls are resilient,” added Miller. “They’ll battle through anything.”
The Cougars grabbed a 1-0 lead 1:08 before halftime on a brilliant set up by Emily Salvaggio. In the center of the midfield, Salvaggio threaded a perfect through-ball to Good going left.
The pass forced Northern goalkeeper Sarah Yunez to leave her net and challenge Good. And all that was left for Good to do was quickly flick a left-footer by Yunez and into the net.
“We can always play better,” said Miller. “But by no means am I displeased with our effort.
“It’s absolutely disappointing to dominate and control the play and end up losing,” Miller continued. “Going into the half we felt good. She (Yunez) definitely kept them in the game.”
The counter attacks never came for the Cougars, who substituted sparingly, in the second half, and they were credited with a single shot in the stanza. Northern York counted eight, one of which was Carey’s tying bomb.
Palmyra goalkeeper Katie McClellan appeared to have a bead on Carey’s laser, but the high blast squirted through her gloves and into the back of the net.
“It should have never happened,” said Miller of the call that awarded the Polar Bears a free kick. “They (the officials) gave the ball to the other team. I don’t know how they (the Polar Bears) got it.
“Katie McClellan has had a great season,” Miller added. “She’s played great. She had a mistake, but which girl hasn’t?”
After each side had clanged a shot off the goal post earlier in the overtime period, Northern York developed the game-winning play from the center of the Cougar zone.
Searfoss shedded her defender, went right and then unleashed a hard right footer. McClellan came out and took a good angle on the play, but Searfoss’ shot deflected off her right elbow and trickled into the goal.
“They countered quickly and we weren’t ready,” said Miller of the game-winner. “The girls will bounce back. They’ll do whatever they have to do. There are some things out of their control. The kids expected us to be out there. But it’s a tough way to lose.”
In all, Northern York out shot Palmyra 16-5. McClellan logged eight saves.
“At the start of any season, the goal is to get to districts and get to states,” said Miller. “This is the best that any team in Palmyra girls’ soccer history has ever done. It took us a while to get going. But once the girls decided to play, we got on a good run.”