Two goals in first 3 minutes lift Lancers to win

Loyalsock’s Rhiallie Jessell gets around Williamsport’s Madison Bowman in the first half at Balls Mills on Wednesday. (MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette)

Loyalsock head coach Ben Comfort wanted to get out to a quick start against Class AAAA cross-town rival Williamsport. Trying to get out to a quick start against the defending District 2-4 Class AAAA champions was a key in a very fast and skilled Williamsport squad. Knowing that his team’s conditioning isn’t where he wants it to be yet, Comfort used a different formation and some new strategies to try and jump out to an early lead so his team could play conservatively the rest of the way.

Comfort couldn’t have drawn up the result better himself.

Loyalsock scored twice within the first three minutes as the Lancers held off Williamsport to take the 3-1 win over the Millionaires Wednesday night at Balls Mills.

“That’s what we kind of wanted to do. We came out in a formation that we knew we wanted to press them early,” Comfort said “It worked out better than I thought it would. Two goals early is huge. I don’t think we really had a let down even though they scored. … The two goals at first set the tone and we were able to sit back a little bit and rest. We’re not fully game-fit yet. We’ve only had two games and we’re getting there.”

Sam Stopper scored the game’s first goal before most fans even got a chance to take a seat on the cold bleachers. She received a nice pass from Juliana Cruz right in front of the goal to give Loyalsock a 1-0 lead just 62 seconds into the game. Less than two minutes later, Rhiallie Jessell, the highly-talented midfielder, scored off another great pass from Cruz who assisted on all three Lancer goals.

“They scored in the first minute and the third minute. They just put us on our heels,” Williamsport coach Scott McNeill said.

Despite not being in midseason form with their conditioning, Loyalsock played a highly-energized game, led by the midfield that made things happen and made quick, short passes to make their way up the field.

“We knew with their formation, they were in like a 4-4-2, we were in a 4-4-3 to start. So we knew that the central part of the field, if they have their two wide players in overload, it would be three against two so unless they made adjustments, we had the room and I think it showed.”

“It was a big game in the midfield. That’s where the challenges were,” McNeill added. “There were a lot of individual battles and I thought they won most of the individual battles in the first half and I thought we came back in the second half and won some battles as well.”

Williamsport cut the Lancer lead in half in the 12th minute when Madison Bowman made a nice move and took a tough shot at the top of the 18, hitting a perfect shot over the outstretched fingertips of Loyalsock goalie Grace Schreckengast to make it 2-1.

The two defenses held strong the rest of the half and didn’t allow any quality looks except when Cruz again had a great pass up to Jenna Gardner, creating a 1-on-1 and Gardner buried the shot into the upper corner for the 3-1 lead in the 45th minute.

“After the first two goals, we stayed pressing because I wanted to get the third one. I figured if we got the third one, we could sit back and defend with three goals,” Comfort said. “Unfortunaetly it didn’t work out like that, soccer doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. They scored so we had to make a few adjustments, get through halftime and kind of recycle everything and start the half the same way we started the first and press them. I thought at that point, I think the game was pretty much in hand with the way we’re able to defend as a team.”

Loyalsock 3, Williamsport 1

L–Sam Stopper (Juliana Cruz), 1:02. L–Rhiallie Jessell (Cruz), 3:00. W–Madison Bowman (Sammi Reeder), 11:57. L–Jenna Gardner (Cruz), 44:53.

Shots: L 6, W 5. Corners: L 4, W 2. Saves: L 4 (Grace Schreckengast); W 3 (Lila Vogelsong).

Records: Loyalsock (2-0), Williamsport (1-1).