Wilson downs Daniel Boone to return to county final

BERNVILLE — Competing against the conditions is one thing.

Competing against destiny is an entirely other.

The Daniel Boone girls soccer team presented the last hurdle for Wilson to surmount in its quest to make it back to the Berks County championship game after three straight years of losing in the final.

The Bulldogs booked their return trip after getting goals from Emily Kaufmann, Myriah Troutman and Hannah Larkin to halt Daniel Boone 3-0 in the semifinals Monday night at Tulpehocken Junior and Senior High School.

“We have been in (the final) every year and unfortunately we’ve gotten second place,’ Wilson senior defender Shannon O’Brien said. “So we finally want to get the chance to redeem ourselves and get one (a county title).’

Wilson will meet the winner of Fleetwood and Wyomissing in the final on Wednesday, 7 p.m. back at Tulpehocken.

Senior leadership and experience often plays a role when the postseason rolls around. And the Bulldogs certainly trumped the underdog Blazers in those categories, being no stranger to the postseason — BCIAA, District 3 and PIAA, for that matter — while featuring six senior starters to just two for Boone.

Despite the disappointment in defeat, Blazers coach John Pantone can’t help but feel optimistic with a District 3-AAA playoff berth ahead — the Blazers are No. 11 in the most recent power rankings — and a talented core that will return next season.

“The girls should be proud,’ Pantone said. “We weren’t predicted to go to the playoffs, weren’t predicted to make this game. They’re upset but I told them they aren’t going to win every day. And we’re trying to learn how to be winners. It’s an experience and we’ll be back next year. And we’ll have this experience.’

Wilson (9-1, 17-3) and Daniel Boone (9-1, 15-5) split results in the regular season — the Blazers won 2-1 on Sept. 9 while the Bulldogs won 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 25.

The rubber match of the No. 1 seed Wilson (by virtue of winning Berks I) and No. 4 seed Boone featured the same two teams that have hung even with each other in each matchup. Neither team was much of a match for the difficult conditions on a foggy, rainy night that made the ball and field extremely slick.

“It was a pretty sloppy first half, just getting used to the conditions for both teams. When turf gets wet it’s like playing on ice. It was really tough for both teams,’ Wilson coach Tim Fick said. “It took away their big throw and no one was really able to get a good first touch so it was a 40-minute feeling out period.

“The second half we got some things going and cleaned up our first touch and defense.’

After putting up six goals on Conrad Weiser in a 6-4 win in the quarterfinals Saturday, the conditions took away the Blazers’ strengths of Alayna Roesener’s long throw-ins and winning balls in the air.

“(Wilson is) a great team. They are well coached, have really talented players but I feel like we got beat by the weather tonight because it neutralized our strengths, our aerial attack,’ Pantone said.

Wilson adjusted best to the slick play, all three goals arguably helped by the wet surface. The Bulldogs took their chances well and cashed in just before the half when an indirect kick was sent into the Blazers’ 18, was punched out by Boone goalkeeper Mackenzie Witzel but the ensuing clearance attempt was scuffed and fell to Kaufmann. Kaufmann struck her shot nicely through traffic into the lower left corner of goal for the 1-0 lead.

The Bulldogs doubled their lead early in the second half when Leah Eschbach hit a long, low shot from the right side. The shot wasn’t collected cleanly by Witzel (four saves) and Troutman, who was Wilson’s most lively attacking player in the first half, was there to pounce on the ball and knock it in from close range.

Wilson bossed the next 15 minutes until the Blazers regained their footing. But Larkin struck a skidding, bouncing shot from the edge of the 18 with 12:40 left to ensure the Bulldogs’ return trip to the county final.

The Blazers could look back on a couple of missed chances early in the game — they hit the crossbar in the 8th minute after Roesener’s free kick and hit the bar again on Jill Braunsberg’s corner kick — that could have been game-changers.

But the Wilson defense, led by O’Brien, senior sweeper Leanne Davis, outside backs Jo Rice and Chloe Stump and goalkeeper Adrianna Swinehart (three saves), was up to the task much as they have all season while only conceding 11 goals.

“Our defense was fantastic,’ Fick said. “Team defense was great, and our back line anchored in the middle with Leanne Davis and Shannon O’Brien did a fantastic job. In the last 15 minutes it was about getting that shutout.’

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