Conestoga’s Pioneers ready for a new exploration

Win and advance – that is the motto Conestoga boys soccer coach Dave Zimmerman likes to preach at this time.

With the regular season and now the District One Class AAA playoffs in the rearview mirror, it’s all about winning and advancing to the next round.

“This time of year, it’s all about focusing on the next game,” said Zimmerman.  We have to approach this one game at a time.  I know it is a well-worn cliché, but there is a reason it’s a cliché.  There’s truth in those words.”

For the fourth time since 2010, Conestoga advanced far enough in the district playoffs to earn a berth in the state playoff tournament.  Also during that time this year will mark the third time Conestoga opens the Class AAA state playoffs at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown (2010, 2013 and 2015).

In their two previous visits, Conestoga emerged victorious defeating Easton Area in 2010 and Parkland in 2013. This year’s state opener for Conestoga is scheduled for Wednesday Nov. 11.

One of the main reasons for this year’s success has been Conestoga’s ability to play together as one with the team following the lead of the seniors by embracing their role and relishing in each other’s success.

“We just go at 100 percent every day whether it’s practice or a game,” said senior Matt Marcelli. “That’s what it takes to get to states and it’s the message we try to pass on to the rest of the team. It means a lot to make it to states, especially as a senior.”

Junior defender Gabe Harms added, “The seniors have been very valuable. They carry the team with their leadership and dedication. I respect each player on the team and I hope I can follow in the seniors footsteps next year when I am a senior.”

With their hard-fought 1-0 win over league foe Springfield (Delco) in the district semifinals, the Pioneers secured its first appearance in the district final since 2011 when they defeated Council Rock North.

The Springfield (Delco) game marked another example of everyone playing their role and seeing the team accomplish its goal of surviving and advancing.

With the Pioneers holding a 1-0 lead and the Cougars on the brink of leveling the match, Harms came up with a big play keeping the tying goal from crossing the goal line.

“Gabe was huge,” said Marcelli, following the Springfield (Delco) game. “He made 1st team All Central and that’s not easy to do as a junior. Him and Danny Leiser have been anchors on the back line.”

“I just try to come out and play hard,” said Harms. “It definitely helps having someone like goalie Will (Smith) behind me. I am like everyone else who plays for the team. We play for each other.”

In front of a spirited crowd at Souderton High School, Conestoga was poised to overcome a two-goal deficit against Central Bucks East. With time winding down in regular time, the ball was absolutely headed toward the back of the net and the two teams seemed destined for overtime.

Only, C.B. East keeper Austin Prime had other ideas and somehow dove toward the far post and managed to keep the ball out of the net.

“You have to give him credit,” said Zimmerman, referring to Prime’s save. “He made a great save.”

Prime’s save ultimately proved to be the difference as Conestoga would not have another golden opportunity as the clock ran out on Conestoga’s quest for a district crown.

Despite the loss, the schedule does not allow for anyone to hang his head with the quick turnaround to be ready for the opening of the state tournament.

Zimmerman said, “The state tournament is what we are really concerned about.  The District One title would have been gravy.  At this point, we can’t afford to dwell on the loss, as more important challenges are right in front of us.”

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