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Moon Eclipses Indians in State Title Game
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-11-22

Tribe succumbs to Tigers' relentless offensive pressure

Upper Perkiomen's girls soccer team pose with the runner-up trophy following last Friday's PIAA

Class 3A title game.

            Ava Long did her best to maintain Upper Perkiomen's bid for a state championship deep into the second half. She kept Moon Area off the scoreboard with multiple acrobatic saves. 

            However, the Tigers' relentless offensive dominance made the game-tying goal seem inevitable, according to the sophomore goalkeeper. Long said she felt it coming.  "The pressure was insane," she said.

            Moon Area rallied after halftime to notch a 2-1 victory in the PIAA Class 3A title game last weekend at Eagle Middle School in Mechanicsburg. Hailey Longwell and Sydney Felton scored to secure the team's second straight state championship.  "We were under siege for the final 60 minutes," said Mike Freed, who is retiring after 14 seasons as head coach.

            Megan Cairns scored for the Indians (25-1-1), who absorbed their first loss of

The Indians console each other after suffering their first loss of

the season in a 2-1 loss to Moon Area in Mechanicsburg.

the season Friday, Nov. 18. The goal, less than six minutes into the game at Bobby Rahal Toyota Field, appeared to buoy the Tribe's bid to complete an undefeated season and capture the program's first state title. She gathered a loose ball on a scramble following Erin Edwards' corner kick and beat goalkeeper Serayah Leach.

            "We wanted to punch them in the mouth early, and see how they would respond," Freed said of the Tigers, who had only allowed two other goals all season.

            According to senior midfielder Kyra Lesko, another goal would have likely lifted the Indians to the first state title in program history. However, she said their struggles to maintain possession in the midfield made it difficult to generate an offensive attack.  "Since our attacking wings had to drop back, we didn't have much of an offensive outlet," Lesko said.

            The early tally appeared to motivate Moon (26-0), which hadn't trailed all season. By the middle of the first half, last year's PIAA Class 4A champion cranked up its offensive pressure.  "Moon really stepped up its game," senior midfielder Mary Kate Sitko said.

            Midway through the first half, the Tigers dominated possession, pinning the Tribe's defense on its half of the field. Long recorded seven saves in the final 12 minutes of the half to preserve the tie. She registered three diving saves, including one early in the flurry, to preserve her team's lead.  "Ava was phenomenal," Freed said of the first-year goalkeeper. "The defense played really well."

            Moon's dominance continued into the second half. The District Seven champions forced Long into three saves on high percentage shots. Upper Perkiomen's defense, led by Elizabeth Proctor, Lauren Powers and Elyse Kreiner, cleared several loose balls around the goal. "The defense really stepped up around me," Long said.

            The Tigers, who held a 20-7 shot advantage and earned 12 penalty corners, finally broke through with 17:05 left in the second half. Longwell used her head to redirect a long direct kick from Marina Mollica past Long to tie the game. "It was bound to happen," Long said.

            Less than eight minutes later, they delivered the game winner. Felton converted a rebound off a save by the Indians goalkeeper on a header by Kayla Leseck.

            "Moon's players looked like they had magnets to the ball," Freed said. "They read the game well, and we did not have an answer."

            The Indians mounted a final scoring run with less than 90 seconds remaining. However, an offside call with 70 seconds left ended the threat and secured Moon's fourth state title since 2016.

            Long, who finished with a season-high 15 saves, described the loss as heartbreaking.

            "The girls are bummed now," said Freed, whose team trailed for only 36 minutes in two games all season on its way to capturing the District One and Pioneer Athletic Conference titles. "But in a few years, they will look back and realize this was a phenomenal season."

            Two days earlier, the Indians defeated Greencastle-Antrim in the semifinal round. Sara Edwards scored twice in the second half to lead them to a 3-0 victory on Nov. 16 at Northeastern High School, near York.  Both came on assists by Powers.

            Morgan Sweed delivered the initial goal late in the first half. Freed described Sweed's tally, with 1:37 left in the first half, off an assist from Sarah Straup, as pivotal.  "It provided us with a big boost," the coach said. "It put us in our comfort zone."

            Sweed scored into an empty net from the right wing after collecting a cross from Straup, with the Blue Devils goalkeeper Alexis Nelson lying on the ground. Straup's initial shot deflected off Nelson's upper body.

            Edwards provided the Tribe, which attempted 17 shots and registered 11 on goal, with much-needed insurance in the second half. She extended the lead to 2-0 by converting on a breakaway less than nine minutes after halftime.

            Approximately 15 minutes later, Edwards struck again. Her arching boot from the 15-yard line beat Nelson just below the crossbar.

            Early on, the Indians had three quality scoring opportunities, but couldn't convert. Each time, Fisher worked behind Greencastle-Antrim trapping defense. She hit the post with 13 minutes remaining in the first half and had a shot deflected with four minutes remaining before halftime.

            "We wasted a lot of good opportunities early," Freed said. "A lot of times, against a quality opponent, that comes back to bite you."

            The Blue Devils (21-3-1) clogged the middle of the field in the first half. At times, they played with five midfielders, which is two more than the Tribe normally utilize. Freed said his team needed some additional time to adjust to the opposition's lineup.

            Greencastle-Antrim's best offensive opportunities came during a 15-minute stretch midway through the first half. The No. 3 seed from District Three forced Long to make two difficult saves, including one off her fingertips and another on a dive to her right.

            Long finished with six saves. Erin Edwards also cleared a ball that snuck past Long to preserve the scoreless tie during the flurry.


 

 

 

 

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