HAMBURG >> The ride continues for the Governor Mifflin Mustangs. Rather, it’s turned into a stampede.
Mifflin punched its ticket to Saturday’s District 3 4A championship game at Hersheypark Stadium with a 1-0 semifinal win over Manheim Township Tuesday evening, in a match held on Hawk Hill.
Kiery Spatz’s boot in the box at 10:11, coming off Hailey Payne’s corner kick offering, was all the Mustangs would need to reach the D-3 final for the second time since 2012. That season, Mifflin took home the district title.
Remains to be seen if that prior success will be replicated. But the red-hot Mustangs (18-5-1) are certainly more than capable. Tuesday’s win over the fourth-seeded Blue Streaks came four nights after Mifflin eliminated top-seed and bracket boogeywomen Cumberland Valley in overtime.
The Mustangs have been involved in so many tight contests this season — this was their third consecutive one-goal verdict in the playoffs, following a regular season with a single regulation time loss — that nothing seems to faze them at this point. They had to repel a desperation-tinged finish from Manheim Township, including a frenzied final 10 seconds in which the Streaks got off a corner kick that sailed past the goal mouth as time expired.
“It’s amazing, what a run,” Mifflin head coach Ed Deren said. “But, repeating something our AD (Pat Tulley) said this morning — this is not a nine-seed team. Those four OT losses affected that. Our girls are playing at a high level right now. Manheim’s a great team.
“You have to set lofty goals to achieve great things. It’s an honor, it’s a privilege, to play in a district final.”
Spatz’s goal, the only one of the match, was a mid-air pick of Payne’s corner kick. She one-timed it with her right foot and past Manheim Township goalkeeper Delaney McKnight into the left side of net, mid-level.
“I saw it (Payne’s corner kick) and thought, ‘this is my opportunity, I can get to this,'” Spatz said. “I kind of jumped, one leg out, and just flicked at it and it went in. I just reacted.”
Payne did not play in Mifflin’s 2-1 OT defeat to these same Blue Streaks back on Sept. 30.
Mifflin probed for a time, looking for an insurance marker. The Mustangs never got it, but came closest in the 72nd minute when a shot from roughly 12 yards out clanged off the crossbar and was swept safely away.
Manheim Twp.’s best chance to score was at roughly the midway point of the first half, off a scramble created by a Streaks’ corner kick. Mifflin goalie Katelyn Dreibelbis dove to cover the exposed corner of the net and came up with save to preserve her club’s narrow lead. Dreibelbis has been solid for Mifflin in net since replacing normal starter Kyra Hartman earlier in October, after the latter’s knee surgery.
“She’s doing a great job,” Deren said of his keeper. “I think she’s responded to the challenge.”
The Lancaster-Lebanon outfit began to press higher up the pitch as the contest drifted under 20 minutes, looking to pierce Mifflin’s back line with a thru ball that could find its way into space.
Deren countered by having Mifflin’s midfielders assume more of a defensive posture. The closing seconds resembled semi-controlled chaos. But his team survived it.
“They threw everything at us those last 20 minutes,” Deren said. “(During the final minute), we were yelling to make sure everyone was marked but yet try to stay calm. That was our thing — try to stay calm. Stay fundamental. Stay on them.”
Mifflin outshot Manheim Township 8-3 and clocked a 6-5 edge in corners.
District 3 4A semifinal
Governor Mifflin 1, Manheim Township 0
GM- Kierstin Spatz (Hailey Payne), 10:11
Shots on goal
GM 8, MT 3
GM 6, MT 5
GM (Katelyn Dreibelbis) 3, MT (Delaney McKnight) 7
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