Dragons pressure lessens

The pressure that the Lewisburg boys soccer team felt was pretty much erased after winning the District 4 Class AA championship last week. There is still some pressure to obviously get back to Hershey­park Stadium and once again hoist a state championship banner, but the brunt of that pressure was lifted against Midd-West for the Green Dragons.

“I think once district final is over, pressure kind of eases a little. Definitely pressure to get out of districts and get to states. I think once you get to states, you recognize everybody here is a quality soccer team and everybody here deserves to be here,” Lewis­burg coach Skip Kratzer said after a first-round win in the state tournament on Tuesday over Wyoming Seminary.

“So anything can happen in game of soccer and sometimes the best team doesn’t even win the game. So you’re just happy to be here and have opportunity. With that said, we hope to continue our roll. We hope to get ourselves back into finals, but we’re happy to be here and have that opportunity,” said Kratzer.

Lewisburg’s roll will continue Saturday in the Class AA state quarterfinals as the defending state champions play Lower Moreland at Cedar Crest High School at 1 p.m.

The Green Dragons have been playing nearly flawless from a defensive standpoint, as Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Wyoming Seminary was Lewisburg’s eight consecutive shutout. And after winning the district title, Kratzer noted how a solid defense was Lewisburg’s recipe for success last year in going 25-0 and winning it all.

Why mess with success?

“We’re confident, that’s for sure. Those guys trust each other, they’ve played with each other for a long time. All the way back to the goal keeper. I know we lost (Logan) Cho last season, but this goal keeper (Ryan Eh­m­ann) that’s in net is one that’s played since they were 10 years old in club team, so they know him,” Kratzer said. “Really just another extension of I guess I say just years of experience and trusting one another.”

And it’s worked. There’s a reason Lewisburg has only given up six goals all year and has only been defeated once. Ehmann has 15 shutouts and defensively, Lewisburg is only allowing roughly 2.3 shots per game, a defense that’s anchored by Wilson Fisher.

While the Green Dragons defense is perhaps as stingy as you’ll find in the entire state in boys soccer, Lewisburg’s offense is just as tough. Joey Bhangdia has been phenomenal especially in the postseason. Of Bhangdia’s 22 goals, eight have come in the last four playoff games alone. And if teams focus strictly on trying to slow Lewisburg’s all-time goal scorer down — who currently sits at 114 for his career, third most all-time in District 4 boys soccer — it opens things up for the likes of Adam Cole (20 goals), Will Brock (11 assists) or Michael Permyashkin (11 goals). Mateo Bernas also has six assists.

Lower Moreland (14-7-3) defeated District 3 champion Tulpehocken in the first round on Tuesday. Lower Moreland showed on Tuesday that it can contain a high-powered offense as Tulpehocken had outscored its opponents, 107-15, this year only to get shutout in the first round.

The Lions don’t put up a ton of goals, only scoring 46 this year, but Lower Moreland has scored at least two goals in a game 13 times this year, including scoring four goals in a game and five goals in a game twice, and scoring six goals in a game at least once.

But Lewisburg is more than up for any opponent they have on the schedule. There’s confidence from all 11 starters on the field and everyone else on the bench. And Bhangdia’s presence this postseason alone has been nice for Kratzer to see in terms of him turning it on at the right time.

“Just nice to see that coming back and starting to click again,” Kratzer said.