Tough test for Montoursville girls in state quarterfinals
Without question, the biggest test Montoursville’s girls soccer team will face this season looms on the horizon on Saturday. The Warriors are 21-0 and have looked solid all season and have had their fair share of tests, having beaten Lewisburg, Midd-West, Loyalsock and Mifflinburg, for instance.
No doubt they have faced stiff competition within not only the Heartland Athletic Conference, but District 4 as well. Montoursville can win games big — like putting up 10 goals earlier this year in a game — or come down to the wire, such as winning three of its past four in overtime in the postseason.
The next team up for the undefeated District 4 champions, however, is powerhouse Trinity, a team you could argue is the measuring stick when it comes to high school soccer in Pennsylvania.
The Shamrocks not only are the defending two-time Class A state champions, but appeared in the 2013 Class A final, having lost to Central Valley, 2-1. The Shamrocks have won four of the past five District 3 titles, coming up shy as runners-up in 2013.
If you’d ask Montoursville though, none of those accomplishments probably matter to the Warriors. Montoursville has approached each game this year the same and know it will be tough, but this is what they wanted.
“We scrimmaged them right before preseason and it was a back-and-forth, pretty even match,” Montoursville coach Vic Gorini said after the Warriors won their first-round Class AA game over Salisbury. “We’ll have to play better than we played tonight, but we look forward to it. This is where we wanted to be.”
The Warriors and Shamrocks will play in the Class AA quarterfinals on Saturday at Hamburg High School at 1 p.m.
Trinity has had District 4’s number the past two seasons, going a collective 4-0, including two wins over Warrior Run in the semifinals both seasons, a shutout over South Williamsport and a state championship win last year against Loyalsock.
Montoursville is a team that isn’t easily intimidated. The Warriors know what they are able to bring to the table each game and know their strengths, from the multiple weapons up top that can score — Kyleigh Balint, Bri Ulmer, Caroline King, Lexi Marchioni and Gillian Mitchell — back to a solid defensive unit with Lauren O’Malley, goalie Marlene Bassett and others.
“We’ve seen them once in summer league, so we kind of know how they play. I’m confident going in with this win, hoping to carry our tempo into that and really show what we have to offer,” Mitchell said.
The Shamrocks (20-2) blanked New Hope-Solebury in the first round of the tournament. Trinity’s only losses this year came to East Pennsboro, losing 2-0 on Sept. 22 and 1-0 on Oct. 13 right before the District 3 tournament began.
Trinity’s does return senior Theresa Durle. After scoring 22 goals in 2015, Durle’s scored only seven this year while Amy Corbett and Grace Webster have stepped up offensively with 12 goals each. Durle and Corbett both have a team-high five assists.
Defensively, Trinity’s only given up two goals in a game twice this year and the Shamrocks have posted 15 shutouts. But much like Trinity, Montoursville is similar defensively. The Warriors only have allowed two goals in a game once — a 5-2 victory over Mifflinburg — and Bassett has been tough, recording nine shutouts.
“Marlene’s always awesome in goal. I’m always super confident with her back there. I couldn’t ask for a better keeper, but yeah, we’ve been doing pressure support for years and like it’s really showing how skilled and seasoned our defense is,” Mitchell said.
But putting the undefeated season on the line in the state tournament against the two-time defending state champions? The Warriors are up for that task.
“Oh yeah, it’ll be a great challenge. I want to see what soccer we can put together against the defending champs and see how we stack up against them, but I think we’ll be fine,” Mitchell said.
Warrior Run doesn’t want to have to come back from behind and rally to beat teams. Granted, the Defenders are capable of doing so — they did it twice in districts — but Warrior Run has the mindset that it wants to come out fast, score early and keep up pressure.
That intensity is what Warrior Run coach Jen Allen wants to see out of her team like she saw on Tuesday when the Defenders blanked York Catholic, 4-0, in the opening round of the Class A tournament.
The Defenders look to get back to the semifinals when they face District 12 champion Conwell Egan on Saturday afternoon at Tulpehocken High School at 2 p.m. in the Class AA quarterfinals.
“We need to make sure we bring intensity right from the start. We need to play as a team by communicating, defending and attacking as a unit,” Warrior Run coach Jen Allen said. “The girls are pumped and ready for Saturday.”
The Eagles have won five consecutive District 12 championships and were in the state final as recently as 2012, when it lost in the Class A championship.
Conwell Egan is led by Lindsay Straka, who has a team-high 18 goals and eight assists. Carly Config has 11 assists. In goal, Maddy Terry has nine shutouts for the Eagles.
The Eagles struggled to begin the year, starting the season just 2-8-1 before going 10-1 to close out the year, including a district playoff win and a state playoff win over Notre Dame ES.
Warrior Run has a tough defensive unit which begins up top all the way back. Gabby Heiss is solid on the back line for the Defenders and Madi Welliver has an area-high 13 shutouts, as she broke the Pennsylvania girls shutout record on Tuesday.
Heiss throughout the playoffs has shown how versatile of a player she is, playing in different positions and being able to score and dish assists out and do whatever’s needed for Warrior Run.