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Bucks stop Warwick’s playoff run in L-L finals
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
One more win would have given the Warwick girls the trifecta.
With wins over two Section champions in their first two Lancaster-Lebanon League playoff games, Section Two king Conestoga Valley was the last obstacle standing between Warwick and its second-ever League crown.
Unfortunately for the Section Two runner-up Lady Warriors, it wasn’t meant to be.
The Buckskins scored a pair of second-half goals, including one on a penalty kick by Samara Yurchak with 25:06 remaining, and defeated Warwick 2-0 in the L-L League finals at Manheim Central’s Elden Rettew Field on Saturday.
The loss left them just one win short of duplicating what the Warriors boys’ soccer team achieved in the fall, when they captured the L-L crown.
It marked not only the end of coach Mike Logan’s career, but also of Warwick’s eight seniors who helped the Lady Warriors clinch an L-L playoff berth on the final day of the regular season. With a final overall record of 11-9-1, however, Warwick fell short of the District Three Triple-A playoffs.
"We can’t lose sight of the fact we’re here," Logan said. "We kinda had an up-and-down season, we were coming off a couple tough losses to E-town and CV, and I said to the girls two weeks ago, ‘Would getting to the final be a great accomplishment?’ I know they’d say yes and they did. They had a string of five straight wins, they fought their way here, they Thbattled hard, but the outcome wasn’t what they wanted and they’re not happy about that right now, but it was a good accomplishment for them to get here."
In two earlier games against Section Two rival Conestoga Valley (19-1-1) this season, the Lady Warriors were on the short end of a pair of one-goal losses, 2-1 and 1-0.
Based on how the first half unfolded, with play going back-and-forth, early signs pointed toward another close battle between the two teams. The Bucks outshot Warwick 3-1 in the opening 40 minutes, and Samantha Kutcher stopped a quality scoring chance by Morgan Higgins with 9:05 left in the half.
Less than a minute later, however, Warwick tried to clear the ball out of the box, but the ball ping-ponged off another Warwick player to Michaela Horst at the left post, who tucked it home to put CV up 1-0 with 8:12 to go.
"It wasn’t necessarily anything we did wrong — we tried to clear it, we hit one of our defenders, it ricocheted off her and went right to them and they tucked it in," Logan said. "So that was kind of a fluky goal — not that they didn’t create some other scoring opportunities. Those we stopped."
Trailing 1-0 at the half, the Warwick girls threatened early in the second, as Tori Kramer took a pass from Hannah Bomberger on the left wing and carried the ball deep into CV territory. From the left wing, she sent a cross through the Buckskins’ box, but Warwick was unable to convert.
"One of our outside mids had gone all the way back into the (defensive) box on a mark, and then we countered really fast and she just couldn’t get back up," Logan said.
Having survived that scare, CV turned up the offensive pressure and put Warwick on its heels for several minutes. Finally, Yurchak went 1-on-1 against a Warwick defender inside the box and was taken down, giving her a penalty kick opportunity. There, Kutcher had no chance on Yurchak’s blast just under the crossbar, which doubled the Bucks’ lead to 2-0 with 25:06 remaining. For the game, CV outshot the Lady Warriors 7-2 and they held a 3-2 advantage in corner kicks.
"Those goals were not off of outstanding scoring opportunities, but on the other hand, we didn’t really challenge in the offensive third, so today, they were the better team," Logan remarked.
At that point, the Warwick girls adjusted their system from a 4-5-1, with Bomberger as the only forward, to a 3-4-3 with three forwards in the front. Warwick generated its final corner with 2:22 left, and Sara Schouten shot just high on an insert from Kramer.
"Give credit to the (Conestoga Valley) defenders — they’re a very, very good defensive group, so we had minimal chances getting around the outside," Logan said. "We got almost nothing through the middle. I think our inability to work through their midfield with short passing and possess the ball up into the final third is what probably got us short because it limited the amount of scoring chances we were going to get."
Last Thursday, senior Brittan Hasson snapped a scoreless tie by beating Hempfield keeper Lauren Trower with only 2:34 to go in the second half, lifting the Lady Warriors to a 1-0 victory over the Section One champion Knights in an L-L League playoff semi-final game at Manheim Central.
That marked the first time that the Warwick seniors knocked off Hempfield in their four-year career, and it lifted the Lady Warriors to the L-L finals for the first time since 2000. They won their only League crown in 1999 in Logan’s first year as the team’s head coach.
"It’s really special to the team for a couple of reasons," Logan said. "Number one, these seniors have never beat Hempfield. We’ve tied them, but we’ve never beat them, so now they’ve got their win. The other thing that’s kinda special to me is that my first year at Warwick, we won the League championship, and now hopefully my last year we’re going to win a League championship. And what I think is really special too, and the girls are keenly aware of this, is that if we win a League championship, we’re pretty sure that we’d be the first team ever to win a League title and not go to Districts."
Their earlier tie against the Black Knights was one of five OT games that Warwick played this spring, in which they finished 0-4-1, so they had no interest in playing beyond regulation last Thursday.
But they were saved by the crossbar not once, but twice in the final minutes, as the Knights’ Tallie McMurtrie found iron with 5:40 to go, and then Emily Lanser nailed the post with 3:18 remaining.
Moments later, Warwick counter-attacked and Hasson picked up the ball on the right wing, ran shoulder-to-shoulder against a Black Knight defender and shot the ball into the left corner of the net out of the reach of Trower with just 2:34 left on the clock.
"I brought it down and I saw Lauren near post, so I knew I had to put it far," Hasson said. "I just thought ‘composure’ and then put it far … I knew we had to get something there."
The Black Knights still had one more good scoring chance, but sophomore Ana Reineberg shot high with 1:45 left and that was the game.
"We didn’t have a lot of great opportunities, but the one we did we put in and they had a couple of really, really good scoring opportunities," Logan said. "It’s funny because it’s kinda gone that way all season where some of those really, really close games weren’t going our way. We had five overtime games and we didn’t win any. It just seemed like those types of shots like Hempfield took and hit the bar and bounced down, that was happening to us all year and now maybe things are starting to even out a little bit."
Hempfield outshot the Lady Warriors 13-4, including 6-3 in the opening half, but Kutcher finished with 10 saves to keep the Black Knights off the scoreboard. Kutcher and Jackie McMullen shared the keeper responsibilities during the season, but McMullen suffered a season-ending injury in practice on Wednesday.
"Very solid … Sam had a very big game for us," Logan said. "Sam and Jackie have both been doing very nice for us." More L-L FINALS, page B-5