READING >> It can be debated whether the game should have been played at all, with constant sheets of heavy rain pelting the turf at Don Thomas Stadium in Exeter throughout Tuesday night’s PIAA Class AAA girls’ soccer encounter between Daniel Boone and Central Bucks South.
There is little debate that the weather played a role in deciding the outcome.
A mere 15 seconds from overtime, Daniel Boone goalie Makenzie Witzel came out from the box to field an innocuous-looking loose ball. The slippery ball eluded her grasp just as an opportunistic and hard-charging Aleksa Peev converged on it.
Peev, a sophomore forward for the Titans, got just enough of the ball to tick it past Witzel’s left leg and sent it slowly rolling directly on target. With no one back for the Blazers, the ball skittered on the saturated turf and into the net.
It gave CB South a stunning 1-0 win over Daniel Boone and ended the Blazers’ season. They finished at 17-3-2.
The loss ended a dream run for the Blazers’ girls’ soccer program, making its first-ever PIAA appearance. The team had never won a District 3 playoff game until this season, then stunned the region by running through the bracket and nipping previously-unbeaten Cumberland Valley in the AAA final last weekend at Hersheypark Stadium.
Central Bucks South, meanwhile, continues its own dream run that began as the No. 24 seed in the District 1 playoffs. Now, the Lady Titans are into the Final 8 of the state after reaching states as the No. 5 seed from District 1.
The analogy could be offered that CB South did to Boone Tuesday what the Blazers did to CV on Saturday. Though the pain probably felt similar, Blazers head coach John Pantone – as he has been throughout this postseason run – remained relentlessly upbeat on the sideline even after what could fairly be categorized as a crushing end to the campaign.
“I didn’t really get a good look at it,” Boone head coach John Pantone said of the last-gasp goal. “I was trying to get the outside backs to get back and I really didn’t see how the play developed.
“But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. I can’t complain about this season. The reality is the weather conditions were horrible tonight, but we had our opportunities. The season that these ladies had, they deserve to walk off this field with their heads held high. They were the District 3 champs.”
CB South coach Betsy Bullock was as stunned as everyone else.
“I couldn’t believe it went in,” Bullock said. “It (the ball) sure wasn’t going fast.
“But, obviously, we’re pleased. They played us very tough and were great on the set pieces. It’s a great feeling to get this victory.”
There is also little doubt that Blazers wouldn’t have been here without the contributions of Witzel, the senior keeper who was tremendous throughout the run.
“Of course,” Pantone said, confirming the notion. “And our defense has been outstanding all year. What can you say. We needed to get more shots tonight and we didn’t. It was tough conditions.”
Boone’s best chance to pot one past CB South keeper Sophia Boggs came in the 56th minute, when an entry pass from the wing into the box found Jillian Braunsberg’s head at point-blank range. Boggs made the reactionary save to keep the game scoreless.
A flurry of corners by the Blazers with just under 20 minutes to play in the first half came up dry, without a threatening transaction. Besides Braunsberg’s direct-hit header, that proved the best chance to slot one home in a match that finished dead-even in shots on goal – both squads had five.
Boone carried the play for long stretches Tuesday, but could not come up with the goal that would extend its magical campaign for one more night.
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