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Abington’s magical season ends against Seneca Valley in PIAA-4A quarterfinals

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CHAMBERSBURG >> The scene was a fitting metaphor for the outcome.

Abington’s Jaeden Joyce, with the last minute of clock winding down, tried his hardest to fight through three or four Seneca Valley defenders at the edge of the box. His valiant effort ultimately failed to achieve the desired result, as the Raiders were able to hold him up and get the ball out.

Offensively, it just wasn’t meant to be as the Ghosts fell a goal short to Seneca Valley, 1-0 Saturday, ending their season in the PIAA Class 4A boys soccer quarterfinals.

“It’s definitely a disappointment but the bottom line is I don’t think we created enough chances for ourselves,” Abington coach Randy Garber said. “Seneca Valley is big, strong and aggressive and won a lot of balls. The officials obviously let us play, not too many fouls called.”

The WPIAL champion Raiders looked every bit the part on Saturday, a high-paced and energized squad that looked to press the advantage any time it could. Critically, they denied Abington the early goal that’s defined the Ghosts’ postseason run and made just enough plays and got enough breaks to keep it scoreless at the half.

Liam Campbell had the best chance for Abington in the opening 40 minutes when Nevin Baer’s corner found him alone at the far post, but the senior defender couldn’t get a clean shot off and his try went wide. On the other end, SV put Campbell and his defensive mates under a deal of pressure, but the Ghosts didn’t let the Raiders get any close-range shots.

“They had a chance and they scored on it, but it might have been one of the few chances they actually put on goal,” Garber said. “The other chances they had they put high or wide and we didn’t clear the ball on that one.”

The solitary goal of the match came with about 29 minutes left. Seneca Valley drew a free kick on the left flank and while the initial service was knocked down, the Raiders got a shot. Abington’s Vince Carosella blocked that one, but it rebounded out to the one guy Seneca Valley hoped it would in attacker Jackson Wotus.

Wotus ripped a terrific shot right back in, nestling the effort in the far side of the net.

“I don’t know if (keeper) Alex (Haycock) even saw it coming, just a very good finish by them,” Garber said. “Defensively, we have to clear the ball there. But it’s not like we didn’t play a good game.”

Seneca Valley did a terrific job defensively as well. The Raiders made sure Abington target man Sean Touey was always accounted for and had white jerseys swarming around the senior forward all game. There were plenty of times where Touey would get a ball, and as he often does, try to lay it off for a teammate only for a Seneca Valley defender to sweep in and intercept.

“We just didn’t get enough guys forward,” Garber said. “They put us under pressure a bit in the first 20 minutes and we didn’t really settle down until the next 15. They worked hard and were aggressive and the officials let us play.”

Touey rattled the crossbar late in the second half while junior Nevin Baer had Abington’s best look but his shot was hit right at the Seneca Valley keeper with just a few minutes left.

For a senior-laden squad, the result was a stinging one for Abington. The Ghosts’ cupboard won’t be completely barren next season but this year’s particular group had a certain aura about it.

Whether it was Touey’s scoring exploits, the hard-nosed defending of Campbell, Reese Gibbs, Carosella and Nate Rose, the assists from Liam Friel, Jack Failing’s toughness in the middle or a mix of any other things from other players, the Ghosts put together a special year that saw them win 21 games, an SOL American Conference title and advance to the District 1 title game and last eight in the state.

“There’s not much you say that will help them right now, they’re very disappointed but for a lot of them, there’s bigger and better things down the road,” Garber said. “This was a magical group, a real, real special group. I told the parents’ association at a meeting in the very beginning this would be a fun group and a group that goes far. That was pretty much right on because they work hard and like being around each other.”

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