All it took for Penncrest girls soccer to get its first states win was, in order, a rise in classifications to 4A, a three-hour bus ride Tuesday and a penalty kick goal conceded inside of five minutes.
From there, it was all clear sailing, really.
Goals by Kara Mullaney and Juliana George sent Penncrest, the fourth seed from District 1, past District 4 champion Williamsport, 2-1, at Loyalsock High School.
Mullaney’s goal in the 24th minute came off the rebound of a Kate Sparling shot that rang the crossbar. The sophomore attacking mid stuck with it, though, and buried the rebound.
Mullaney’s goal equalized a Sydney Bruno penalty in the fourth minute, which speedy forward Katie Penman won off a sliding Bryn McLaughlin near the edge of the penalty area. But the Lions (11-7-4) didn’t give their goalkeeper much more to do on the night, McLaughlin making two saves, plus a crucial slide tackle on Penman outside the back early in the second half.
George finally got the Lions ahead with 15 minutes to play, the diminutive winger finally poking home the ball on a penalty-area scrum, the likes of which the Millionaires had survived on several occasions, thanks in large part to 11 saves from Lila Vogelsong in goal. But not this time.
George’s tally bucks another trend. Penncrest’s win is their first in their three appearances, the last two in Class 3A. Last year, they lost in double-overtime to Fleetwood and fell 3-0 to Manheim Central two years ago, both times as the District 1 runner-up. But that’s in the past, from a team that entered its district tournament as the 20th seed and had to win three road games to get to states.
“Last year, we thought we had our best year and our best chance,” Mullaney said. “This year, we really surprised people. We were the 20th seed in districts and just the fact that we made it this far and won a game is really great.”
This time, they did enough to book a date with District 11 second seed Ephrata, which upset District 1 and Central League champion Conestoga, 2-1. Site and time for that game Saturday is to be determined.
For the six upperclassmen who’ve been a part of each states team — McLaughlin, defenders Logan Morris, Kenna Kaut and Sparling, midfielder Julia Mullaney and defender-turned-forward Sarah Hughes team — Tuesday’s win isn’t a culmination but a just reward for years of efforts.
“It’s a great win for the girls,” coach Mike Deleo said. “And a lot of these wins are the effort and desire and hard work, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
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