On to Hershey: Lady Barons advance to District finals

By on October 31, 2018
Manheim Central junior captain Tori Fahnestock kicks the ball into the Lady Barons’ offensive end of the field in their 2-1 win over Northern York in the District quarterfinals. Photo by Alan Johnson

Manheim Central junior captain Tori Fahnestock kicks the ball into the Lady Barons’ offensive end of the field in their 2-1 win over Northern York in the District quarterfinals. Photo by Alan Johnson

Manheim Central has put a nice streak together in soccer.

In 2016, the Lady Barons advanced to the District Three Triple-A finals, beating Northern York 3-1 for the gold, and then the MC boys advanced to the District championship game last fall, where they suffered a 3-0 loss to Lower Dauphin.

On Monday night, with an opportunity to make it three straight years with a Manheim Central soccer team in the District Three finals, the 2nd-seeded Lady Barons delivered, getting first-half goals from Makenna Copley and Erin Greiner, then holding off 3rd-seeded Lower Dauphin 2-1 in the Triple-A semi-finals at Northeastern High School.

“Everyone knows Manheim as a football town,” Lady Barons’ coach Andrew Stoltzfus said, “but we’re trying to show it’s also a soccer town. It doesn’t matter sport it is, Central is going to be there late in the season.”

In this case, “there” is historic Hersheypark Stadium, where the Manheim Central girls (19-3) will take on top-seeded Mechanicsburg (21-0) in Thursday’s finals, which will get underway at 5:30 p.m. The Lady Wildcats advanced with a 2-1 double OT win over Berks Catholic.

As Stoltzfus and a couple of his players admitted, playing at Hersheypark Stadium will be special. They also played there last year in the District Three Triple-A playoff quarterfinals.

“We have a lot of great stadiums in our league,” Stoltzfus said, “but there’s nothing like Hersheypark.”

“Just getting there, it’s amazing,” Copley said.

“It’s a big moment of high school,” senior midfielder Maddie Carper said.

Both Carper and Copley were members of the MC girls team which won the District championship in 2016, and they talked to their teammates about the experience of playing in Chocolatetown.

“At practices, we just kept reminding them how great the feeling is to work hard and then you earn the right to get into the final,” Carper said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game.”

Indeed, it was. Scoring chances were limited in the early going for both teams until the Lady Barons picked up four corners in a stretch of six minutes — the fourth of those with 16:10 left in the first half.

Central had a 5-0 edge in corners in the opening 40 minutes and an 8-3 advantage for the game.

“Last year, we relied on Maddie Carper for everything,” Stoltzfus said, “and it’s nice to see her be able to play comfortably in the middle and not be reliant on her foot all the time, that one or two players can have a down game and we still have other weapons that we can rely on. So it’s nice to see them all clicking.”

The Lady Barons eventually got their first shot with 10:44 left in the half, and it resulted in a goal. Greiner, from the left wing, sent a nice pass to Copley at the near post, and the junior forward converted to give MC a 1-0 lead.

“The keeper (Jamison Scheafer) had a hand on it, then it hit the crossbar and went in,” Copley recalled. “It would have been a real disappointment if it didn’t go in.”

“We have some talented forwards,” Carper said. “They know how to finish.”

Finish is exactly what Greiner did, just 3:29 later, converting on a feed from senior Elizabeth Levy to put the Lady Barons in front 2-0.

“We keep preaching, ‘It’s not the first goal. It’s about getting the first goal and the second goal, getting out on that front foot,’ and we did that,” Stoltzfus remarked.

For Greiner, it was her 12th goal of the season.

“Erin Greiner is just one that when the calendar turns to October, now about to be November, is when she heats up,” Stoltzfus said. “She’s been flying high the last few games and we’ve got a lot of weapons, so it’s about getting the ball to her feet and then finding those other players.”

It remained a 2-0 lead at the break, and then Lower Dauphin (12-5-2) came out as a different team to start the second half, putting heavy pressure on Manheim Central keeper Kelli Kreider and the Lady Barons’ defense.

Lady Falcon senior forward Mayson Light had a golden opportunity with 39:25 left on the clock, but Kreider made a nice stop to keep it out of the net. For the game, Kreider had four saves.

“We’ve played against two really good forwards these last two games (including ….. from Northern York), and we’ve given up one goal each game,” Stoltzfus said. “I’m really happy with our defense.”

Light’s opportunity led to the Lady Falcons’ first corner kick of the game, and with 39:02 remaining, Eva Stoessel scored, on an assist from Light, to cut Manheim Central’s lead to 2-1.

“They put a lot of pressure on us, especially the second half,” Carper said. “We knew they wanted it.”

Kreider made another stop against junior Ryan Klingensmith with 35:10 left on the clock, and then LD picked up two more corners over the next four minutes, and Lady Baron sophomore defender Tylee Stauffer made a goal-saving stop at the left post with 31:09 to go to preserve the one-goal lead.

“You knew at some point in the game, there was going to be a 15 or 20-minute span … the teams at this time of year are great, so you’re not going to be on top of your game the entire time,” Stoltzfus remarked. “So whenever that 15 or 20-minute spell comes, you have to weather it and you have to kinda batten down the hatches and go back to the way we like to play. They ended up getting a goal off of it, but it kinda woke us up a bit and we got it back late in the half then.”

Eventually, the Lady Barons were able to swing the tide back in their favor, collecting three corner kicks over the final 22 minutes and creating scoring chances from Carper, Copley, Greiner and others.

“We definitely knew we had to pick it up,” Carper said. “I think our center backs and midfield started connecting more and then we started finding those outlet passes better, which worked really well. We started getting more into the 50/50s, which was good.”

Although the Lady Barons were unable to add an insurance goal, their one-goal lead ended up being enough to punch their ticket back to Hersheypark.

“This will be the third year in a row they’ve made it to Hersheypark and been able to play there,” Stoltzfus said. “So these girls won’t be intimidated by that.”

Last Thursday night at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Field, Hannah Adair’s goal in the 47th minute proved to be the game-winner for the Lady Barons, who defeated Northern York 2-1 in the District Three Triple-A playoff quarterfinals.

Although the Lady Barons dominated both in shots (18-2) and corner kicks (8-1), the score was knotted up 1-1 at the half.

After Elizabeth Levy scored in the 7th minute to give Manheim Central an early one-goal lead, the Lady Polar Bears pulled even when Kayla Swope scored on a penalty kick in the 17th minute.

Adair’s tally, on the second of Maddie Carper’s two assists, gave Central a lead it never lost.

Kelli Kreider had one save to get the win.

 

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