Lancers eliminated in first round

DALLAS — They sat on the bench and looked down at the green turf under their feet, slowing finding the energy to take off their cleats one final time and put on some long pants and jackets to shield from the suddenly biting November night air.

This wasn’t how the season was supposed to end for Loyal­sock on Tuesday night at Dallas High School. There was still supposed to be at least a couple more rounds of the PIAA Class AA tournament left to play. The returning state runners-up never thought the season would end under the lights trying to figure out how it surrendered four goals for the first time this year.

But here were the Lancers, bundling up, staring blankly at nothing in particular trying to figure out what just happened. Head coach Ben Comfort gathered the team and lauded his team for its play in the second half of a 4-3 loss to District 2 champion Lake-Lehman.

Then there was the dreaded ‘but’, and the end of his praise. He explained playing a dominant second half doesn’t make up for a disappointing first half where the Knights scored four goals, putting the Lancers in a hole they couldn’t recover from.

“We never gave up four goals in a game all season, let alone one half,” Comfort said. “There’s a lot of things that kind of snowballed on each other and made things difficult for ourselves. Not to take anything away from Lehman, but we shot ourselves in the foot and didn’t play our style of soccer for a full game.”

Tuesday was just the fourth time this season in 22 games the Lancers allowed multiple goals in a game, and the first time since Oct. 18 against Southern Columbia that they allowed at least three goals. But the breakdown which saw Loyalsock surrender three consecutive goals after scoring 43 seconds into the match was on both ends of the field.

The defense struggled to get to loose balls, leaving Lake-Lehman’s high-octane offense one on one with Lancers keeper Grace Schreckengast. It also allowed yards of space for Knights leading scored Mackenzie Love to operate. And in the midfield, the Lancers weren’t aggressive in chasing down the ball and sending it forward until they were digging out of a two-goal hole.

Loyalsock took a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game when it played a corner kick short and Rhiallie Jessell dribbled along the endline uninhibited. When a defender finally stepped to her, she sent a pass in front of the goal to a wide open Sarah Van Fleet for her second goal of the season.

“We talked about playing that short over there because a right-footed kicker is on grass coming on to the turf,” Comfort said. “So we wanted to run a short corner and dribble into the box. It’s a pretty simple play when they don’t defend it.”

Then the wheels fell off for Loyalsock. Lehman’s Amanda Ayers cleaned up a loose ball in front of the net for a goal less than a minute later. And just 2:07 into the match, Love scored her 48th goal of the season when she dribbled down the right side, stopped on a dime, and fired a left-footed shot inside the far post for a 2-1 Knights lead.

Love put Lehman up 3-1 in the 16th minute when she received a beauty of a through ball and dribbled 30 yards before tapping the ball around Schreckengast and scoring on an empty net. Love has over 100 points this year and assisted on the Knight’s fourth goal of the half, another through ball which Abby Paczewski shot across the face of the goal and was able to sneak inside the far post.

“(The through ball) is tough because you have to read where is the ball coming from, what angle, the speed of the player running on to it, the surface of the field you’re playing on, is it a fast field or slow? And all of that has to be done real quick and it’s not an easy thing to do,” Comfort said. “I can’t blame my goalkeeper for that. We need to play better defense in front of her.”

“I’m proud of (Love). This is the first playoff game where she really finished and got her name on the board,” Lake-Lehman coach Kelly Adamschick said. “She wants to play and she comes to play and she gives it her all when she’s out there. Usually when she gets one in the net, she kind of loosens up a little bit and the goals come from there.”

The Lancers dominated the second half, minimizing the Knights’ scoring chances and putting in a goal from Juliana Cruz to get within one with 10 minutes left. But the damage was done in a sub-par first half which allowed Lehman to pack in the defense and for Loyalsock to play through nine or 10 players to get even inside the 18-yard box.

“They left the field playing the Loyalsock soccer they know how to play,” Comfort said. “It’s just unfortunate they couldn’t do it for a full 80 minutes.”

Loy-Sarah Van Fleet (Rhiallie Jessell), 1st minute; LL-Amanda Ayres, 2nd minute; LL-Mackenzie Love, 3rd minute; LL-Mackenzie Love, 11th minute; Loy-Rhiallie Jessell, 16th minute; LL-Abby Paczewski (Mackenzie Love), 31st minute; Loy-Juliana Cruz (Adriana Barone), 70th minute.

Shots: Lake-Lehman 18, Loyalsock 7. Shots on goal: Lake-Lehman 8, Loyalsock 4. Corner kicks: Loyalsock 8, Lake-Lehman 1. Saves: Loyalsock 4 (Grace Schreckengast); Lake-Lehman 2 (Stephanie Ayers). Fouls: Lake-Lehman 10, Loyalsock 8. Offsides: Loyalsock 3, Lake-Lehman 0.

Records: Loyalsock (17-4-1); Lake-Lehman (20-1).