Loyalsock begins its quest for a PIAA girls soccer championship today. And for a third consecutive year, the Lancers enter as the top finisher in District 4.
In last season's tournament, Loyalsock ended Mountain View's undefeated season and hopes of a Class A title with a 5-0 first round thrashing.
Loyalsock, which opens its bid at a Class A title against District 2 winner Mountain View, has fared well in the previous two tournaments. The Lancers, who play Mountain View today at 5 p.m. at the Balls Mills Soccer Club, have won four of their last six PIAA games.
Loyalsock begins pursuit of its second PIAA?title in four years today at Balls Mills.
Both of the Lancers' losses came against eventual state champion Warrior Run. And besides the four goals that came in those losses to the Defenders, Loyalsock has made offense difficult to come by, allowing just two goals in the team's four wins.
The Loyalsock defense continued its top postseason form throughout this year's district tournament. The Lancers posted four consecutive shutouts and won the team's third district title in as many seasons.
"That's our foundation there," Loyalsock coach Ben Comfort said of the back line. "That's how we build our attack and they are there when the attack isn't working. The four back there with Amanda (Daneker) are tough to beat. They don't give up many goals and that helps us win games."
- Class A?girls: Loyalsock vs.?Mountain View,
5 p.m., at Balls Mills
- Class AA?boys:?Lewisburg vs. Coughlin,
7 p.m., at Loyalsock H.S.
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And over the course of the final two games in the district tournament the defense was indeed the difference.
The Lancers played a strong offensive first half in each of the two games, but struggled to keep possession in the second half of both contests.
In the semifinal game against Southern Columbia, the Lancers only posted one shot on goal in the second half. Most of Loyalsock's came in the first half. Both of the team's shots on goal came in the opening 40 minutes. The Lancers, though, capitalized on one of two chances on goal and used the defense to limit Southern.
And the difference between a one-goal and two-goal win means little when chasing the state's top prize.
"Our confidence comes from the defense and works its way up," junior Allie Pagana said. "You have to have confidence in the defense to have confidence in the offense. I give a lot of credit to our defense."
The offense's confidence in the defense was apparent after Pagana slipped a nifty shot past Southern's keeper in the first half of the teams' District 4 semifinal match.
Once in front, the Lancers leaned heavily on a great performance by the defense, which held the Tigers to just two shots on goal throughout the second half.
The Lancers used a similar approach in the second of half Saturday's District 4 final against East Juniata. Despite the Tigers holding possession for the majority of the half, they only were able to challenge Daneker twice with shots from outside the box.
"Our defense has always been strong," senior Katy Burdett said. "We just talk all the time. We just know who to mark up and when one of us isn't doing something right we're right there to help each other."
Mountain View isn't entering the game without an offense, though. The District 2 winner enters today's game without a loss, raking up 13 wins through the regular season and playoffs with just one tie.
The Eagles earned the top seed in the District 2 tournament and opened play with a 12-1, win over No. 8 Carbondale.
In the second round, Mountain View's offense continued to produce, putting four goals up against No. 4 Forest City for a 4-2 win. The Eagles then claimed their second district title in three seasons as Karlee Weidar and mandean Whitaker each scored to get past No. 2 Lakeland.
This is the first girls soccer postseason to encompass the entire state, as the PIAA?moved all spring teams to the fall this year.
"We have a very strong back line," Nicole Dougherty said. "We are held together by Ally Kennedy and Katy (Burdett) in the middle, who communicate with Courtney (Brown) and I on the outside. We're very good at communicating and holding people out."