Warwick advances to District semis Lady Warriors’ 4-0 shutout of Red Lion clinches first State berth since 2007
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Tuesday night’s game had barely ended and one of Warwick’s players uttered the words that many of her teammates were no doubt thinking.
"Hey guys, guess what?," she said. "We’re going to States."
Thanks to a 4-0 shutout of 6th-seeded Red Lion at Governor Mifflin High School in the District Three Triple-A playoff quarterfinals, the 3rd-seeded Lady Warriors did indeed clinch a spot in the State Championships.
And considering that none of the players on Warwick’s current roster have ever competed in the PIAA Tournament, it meant a lot to them. Tuesday’s win gave them their first State berth since 2007.
"It’s the first time in our high school career that we’ve gotten to that point, so it’s exciting for us," senior back Kayla Laughman said.
As Warwick skipper Bob Derr noted, though, it also allows them to focus solely on their next test — a fourth-meeting this season against L-L rival Penn Manor (20-3) in the District semis on Thursday at Hempfield at 6 p.m. — and not on anything else. Second-seeded Penn Manor prevailed over 7th-seeded Central Dauphin 2-1 in double OT.
"That’s a huge hurdle and now we don’t have to worry about that, trying to come back through the loser’s bracket," Derr said. "I’m looking at the teams in District Three, and out of the top eight, anyone could be in the top five. Only three teams are going to be dropped (out of States), and there are going to be some good teams being dropped out of the top eight, which is a shame."
The Warwick girls (19-3-0) were focused from the get-go against the Lady Lions, scoring two goals in the opening 9:47 on their way to taking a 3-0 halftime lead.
"I think we were just really ready to play," senior back Jenica Miller said. "It’s been postponed so much that we just wanted to get the game in and get a win. Plus, knowing that we had a guarantee of three more games (was big) because we really wanted to get to States."
The District quarterfinals were originally set for last Saturday, but a rare October snowfall pushed the games back to Monday, and then eventually on to Tuesday. Derr acknowledged that he was concerned about his team having a six-day layoff since beating Governor Mifflin 5-0 last Tuesday, Oct. 25.
"We were practicing and scrimmaging ourselves and trying to be competitive with ourselves," Derr said. "Now we’re going to play three games in a matter of five days, so it’s going to be tough on them, but this was good to get back on the field and play, so I’m pleased with that."
Cepeda’s goal with just 2:32 elapsed on the first of Warwick’s 13 penalty corners, tipping the ball past Red Lion keeper Gabby Uberti at the left post, gave the Lady Warriors a lead they never relinquished. Alyssa Manley and Liz Wenger picked up assists.
Overall, Warwick had the game’s first four shots and three penalty corners, and Jen Stipe’s tally with 20:13 left in the half, off the rebound of a shot by Emma Rissinger, gave the Warwick girls a 2-0 advantage.
"I don’t know how that second one snuck in," Derr laughed, "but it did."
Then when Wenger tipped home a shot by Manley with 6:37 to go in the half, Warwick stretched its lead to 3-0. For the game, the Lady Warriors outshot Red Lion 16-7 and it held a 13-7 edge in corners.
"I thought the passing good — in both halves, I thought the passing was really good," Derr said. "They did a nice job of passing and connecting and making some good decisions that way. But there some crucial times that we were turning the ball over."
One of those times was in the final minute of the first half, when Red Lion’s Erica Maciejewski got a shot away at Warwick keeper Alexis Charles, which led to a penalty corner with no time left on the clock. But the Lady Warriors protected their 3-0 lead at the half. Charles finished the game stopping all seven shots she faced for the shutout.
"(Alexis) is really great with communicating and she definitely holds us accountable for things," Laughman said. "She’s just a good leader on the field and organizes everybody in the backfield."
Charles again came up big making back-to-back saves on a Red Lion penalty corner early in the second half.
That came during a lull by Warwick’s offense, in which the Lady Warriors were unable to generate any shots or corners leading up to a timeout by Derr with 19:04 left.
"I think we were too comfortable and confident that we would win," Miller said.
"I was a little concerned in that second half — I just thought we were playing too relaxed and going through the motions," Derr said. "We weren’t pressing as hard as we could. Then (after the timeout), the offense started coming."
Indeed, the Warwick girls went on to generate seven corners and 10 shots over the final 19 minutes, and Cepeda’s second goal of the game, tipping home a long hit by Bethany Han with 11:57 remaining, set the final margin of victory.
With that, the Lady Warriors set their sights toward their fourth meeting against Penn Manor. Warwick has taken two of three from the Comets this year, including the L-L League finals, but they know they will need to be on top of their game on Thursday.
Asked what they expect in the District semis, Laughman said, "A good fight, for sure." More LADY WARRIORS, page B-5