LEBANON >> Kutztown had taken it as far as it could. The only thing left was the roulette wheel of sports, penalty kicks.
That’s where the Cougars fell just short. Kutztown’s dream run through the PIAA boys’ soccer tournament ended in the penultimate game, a loss to top-seeded Camp Hill in the Class A semifinal at Cedar Crest High School. The Lions bested the Cougars in PKs, 4-2, after regulation and two 15-minute overtimes failed to resolve a 1-1 deadlock.
It was a rematch of the District 3 championship match a couple weeks back, also won by Camp Hill, 2-0 at Hersheypark Stadium.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Kutztown head coach Ian Moreland said. “We had small goals throughout the whole season and I’ll tell you what — making the state semifinals was not one of them. We came together and I’m nothing but proud of these games. We fought hard and took an unbelievably skilled Camp Hill team to PKs.”
During the PK session, Camp Hill goalie Noah Smeriglio stoned Kutztown’s Jake Aston in the fourth round — Smeriglio’s second stop — to give the win to the heavily-favored Lions. Camp Hill will face Sewickley Academy, 2-0 winners over Seton Lasalle, for the 1A state title at back at Hersheypark Stadium Friday afternoon.
Kutztown (15-8-1) was given no real shot against Mid-Penn Conference small school behemoth Camp Hill (23-2) prior to Tuesday night. The Cougars proved everyone wrong — and came within five minutes of pulling the upset.
Leading 1-0 in the dying minutes, Kutztown’s Nathan Schumaker was called for a handball in the box, a bad break that saw the ball bounce high on Cedar’s Crest’s artificial turf during an entry pass and clip Schumaker in the hand. Colin Daly stepped up and beat Kutztown’s Brady Tucker on the resulting penalty kick to knot the score at 1.
“That was a tough pill to swallow,” Moreland said. “For a team like Camp Hill, you can’t ever let your guard down. We knew they were gonna fight to the end. The ball takes a weird bounce, and that’s soccer. Unfortunately, you’ve got to live with that. They buried their PK, and we went an extra 35 minutes.”
That we were in this position to begin with was nothing short of miraculous. Camp Hill, far superior in technical ability, as witnessed by anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of soccer, dominated play for the entirety of the match.
But Tucker, a junior, played the match of his life, rejecting shot after shot — until that 75th minute freebie, on which he had no shot. He made 11 saves on Camp Hill’s 14 shots on target, getting help on three others with goal line punch-outs by teammates.
“He’s been a rock back there,” Moreland said of his goalkeeper. “He’s super-confident right now. He’s a pleasure to have.”
Tucker: “I can’t really put it into words. This experience has been once-in-a-lifetime. You only get once chance at this. To go out the way we did, even though it wasn’t a win, we played hard like we did all season. Our fans were with us all season and I couldn’t be more proud of the boys.”
At the other end, symbolic of the uphill swim, Kutztown managed just three shots on Smeriglio — but one of those nearly stole victory.
An offering was sent Smeriglio’s way from 30 yards out in the 20th minute, on which Camp Hill’s goalie had to dive to make the save. Kutztown’s Garrett Moyer, the only blue jersey in the zip code, pounced on the parry and knocked it home to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
Kutztown managed to hold off wave upon wave of Camp Hill probes after that, for the nearly next 56 minutes, until a bad bounce changed the course of the contest and gave the favorites new life near the end.
Tucker continued his brilliance into the Golden Goal extra sessions — rejecting one shot at point-blank range with an outstretched paw, and backpedaling on another with fingertip control on a high lob just 30 seconds into the first OT on a shot that looked ticketed to end it.
PIAA 1A semifinal
At Cedar Crest High School
Camp Hill 1, Kutztown 1 (Camp Hill, 4-2 PKs)
K- Garrett Moyer, 19:21
CH – Colin Daly (PK), 75:34
CH 14, K 3
CH 9, K 0
CH (Noah Smeriglio) 2, K (Brady Tucker) 11