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Bicentennial League

Frustrating first half, shocking goal put Penncrest out

MANHEIM TWP. >> With a little sheepishness, Maddie Carper discussed her thought process over the ball in the 18th minute Tuesday night.

The Manheim Central defender and primary set-piece taker surveyed the field from the dead ball 48 yards out and figured she’d provide the usual service to spur chaos near the goal.

When Carper’s delivery skipped high off the turf and bounded over the head of Penncrest goalie Bryn McLaughlin, the first installment of a comprehensive 3-0 win for the Barons, the defender accepted that that wasn’t a bad result either.

“I was a little surprised at first, but I knew I had to hit it really, really hard, and I had to try to hit it higher,” Carper said. “It bounced even higher and it ended up going into the top netting.”

Carper also set up the Barons’ third tally in the final minute of the first half, capping a 22-minute spree of domination that saw the District 3 champs down Penncrest in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A tournament at Manheim Township’s Kruis Field.

The loss brings a hard-to-stomach end for Penncrest (14-3-3), which looked the better team for the first 20 minutes. But they were swiftly done in, first by a goal that shouldn’t have been, then by an impressive Barons side that aggressively seized the opening.

Kiera Wells doubled the lead in the 29th minute, bashing a volley across the face of goal off a 1-2 with Caity Howett. Then Carper capped the half with 22.3 seconds to play with an in-swinging corner that Taylor Kauffman met with a thunderous header. Kauffman, who saw a volley denied superbly by McLaughlin seconds before, nearly had Penncrest defender Carly Dunford clear the shot off the line, but it carried such pace that Dunford could only deflect it over the line, a marker that took the starch out of the Lions for good.

Kauffman’s goal is more in line with Carper’s usual set-piece aim, a central tenet of the Barons’ success.

“We crash a lot,” Carper said. “We crash really well. That’s how my goal happened, we had people crashing and there was confusion and it ended up going in.”

The first goal was avoidable on both ends. The free kick was won cheaply, Penncrest’s lanky midfielder Corryn Gamber appearing to get mostly ball in a tackle of Wells, about a foot shorter, but the whistle disagreed. McLaughlin remained rooted to her line as Carper delivered, allowing the bounce to play her.

In an instant, 20 minutes of solid play where Manheim (19-4) could scarcely escape its own end under Penncrest’s high press went by the wayside.

“I think it just frustrated a lot of people because we were dominating them the whole time before that,” Lions midfielder Kat Mullaney said. “Once they scored, it did throw us off because we weren’t expecting it and it shouldn’t have happened. We should’ve been the first team to score.”

Another adjustment for the Lions is recovering after goals. In their first 18 games, Penncrest had only conceded seven times. They matched that total in their next three halves — a 4-1 thumping by Villa Joseph Marie in last Saturday’s District 1 title game and Tuesday.

“It’s definitely strange coming from behind because it’s not something we’re used to doing this year,” defender Sarah Hughes said. “But we definitely have it in us. We just couldn’t finish one today.”

“It’s hard to come back from it because we are so not used to it,” Mullaney said. “It kind of does boggle us sometimes. … We have to reorganize, find out what went wrong and prevent it the next time.”

The attacking connections were also lacking. Manheim goalie Mia Reed made three saves, few of much difficulty. Olivia Mancarella troubled her with a turning volley eight minutes into the second half that Reed easily handled. Gia Martyn curled a free kick over the bar in the 27th minute, and a Gamber volley from 25 yards rattled the football crossbar just above the net in the 55th. The Barons, content to sit deep and absorb pressure after halftime, suffocated the game.

Penncrest’s struggles truncated their first states berth in years. With only two seniors (Mancarella and Martyn) playing Tuesday, the future is undoubtedly bright in Class 3A. That puts the setback into perspective as experience that a youthful squad can utilize.

“I think it sets us up great,” said Hughes, one of two sophomores on the backline alongside two freshmen. “I’m looking forward to next year a lot. We’re going to have an awesome team, lots of young people. It’s going to be great.”

In Class A:

Fairfield 6, Christian Academy 0 >> Madison Dutton stopped 10 shots, but the Crusaders couldn’t slow the Distrit 3 champs, who blew the game open with four second-half goals.

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