LOWER PAXTON >> Lancaster Mennonite’s multiple weapons were not at all slowed by the rain and cold of Tuesday night, as the Blazers shot early and often and raced away to a 5-1 win over Lansdale Catholic in the opening round of the PIAA-2A State Tournament.
“We knew coming in that (Matthew Lynch) was a fantastic player,” Crusaders coach Bill James said. “(Tyler Wagner) is also excellent, has fantastic foot skills.
“We wanted to slow down attacking individuals, but that’s a credit to them — they have some fantastic players that made it very difficult for us to do that. They played great team ball, and when you’re trying to slow down individuals, all of their players on their team are gonna step up, and they did a great job of that.”
Lancaster Mennonite, the District Three Champs, advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals to take on Notre Dame, a 2-1 overtime winner over El Meyers.
A strong season came to an end for the District 12 champ and District 1/12 regional runner-up Crusaders, who closed out at 9-11-4.
In the opening moments, Wagner banged a shot off the post and the ball would be knocked in by the Cruaders for an own goal. However, barely five minutes later, LC generated some pressure and scored on an own goal by the Blazers to even things at one apiece.
“With the unfortunate start that we had, to be able to come right back showed that the guys weren’t gonna hold their heads down,” James said. “We got right back into the game there and for a second felt like we had the momentum.”
The score remained tied until midway through the first half, when Wagner took it all the way in himself, and from about 17 yards out hit a hard ground ball to the left corner, out of the reach of Crusader keeper Joe Duffy for a 2-1 edge.
With five minutes left in the first half, Mesa Dula set up Lynch to give the Blazers a 3-1 cushion at the break.
“Coming in, we knew they were an excellent team. They just really know how to move the ball and play soccer,” James said. “A lot of people say that high school soccer is different, and I think a team like Lancaster Mennonite proves otherwise.
“They play a beautiful style of soccer and really knock the ball around, which we knew they were gonna do.”
In the second half, Shota Totani raced to a fantastic pass by Lynch, meeting it right out in front and putting it home to increase the margin to 4-1. Lynch scored his second goal of the contest by getting to a loose ball, weaving around a defender and knocking it in to make it 5-1 with 28 minutes to play.
The Crusaders, hit hard by graduation after last year’s run to the state semis, still saw their season extend into the chill of November.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” James said of his squad. “They lost a lot of key players from last year and didn’t know what to expect. But their expectations still remained high and I’m very proud of the work they put in.
“I think getting to this stage is something they should be proud of.”