Lancers advance on kicks
DANVILLE — As she placed the ball down for her free kick from a yard outside of the corner of the 18, Loyalsock senior Rhiallie Jessell had a quick moment to tell herself she had to focus on her strike. With less than three minutes to play trailing a solid Montoursville team, Jessell knew this could be the Lancers’ last chance to tie the game and keep the season going.
Jessell took a few quick steps and sent the ball perfectly out of the reach of Montoursville goalie Avery Zales, sending it just under the crossbar.
It wasn’t the game-winner, but it was the shot Loyalsock needed.
The Lancers and Warriors battled throughout two overtime periods thereafter, but neither scored and ended up going into a shootout, in which the Lancers were victorious.
Jessell, Sam Stopper and Hannah Knecht all converted their penalty kicks to defeat Montoursville in the shootout, 3-1, and advance to the District 4 Class AA semifinals against Midd-West next week at a time and place to be determined.
“I really just didn’t want my season to end there. Coach Ben (Comfort) and I have been working on my free kicks around that area for awhile now even before season in summer,” Jessell said. “So I knew just to focus on my strike and this might be the last opportunity to shoot a ball in a Loyalsock uniform.”
In the shootout, Anna Schult converted the first penalty kick for the Warriors, sending it to the right before Jessell sent hers in the same location to make it 1-1.
But the Warriors failed to make another penalty kick, missing their next three attempts as Loyalsock sank their third and fourth ones to win.
“It’s tough on the girls,” Montoursville coach Vic Gorini said. “I wish there was a different way to settle the game but that’s the format, so it’s always a gamble.”
The Lancers engulfed Knecht after her kick around the 20-yard line to celebrate while Montoursville’s players consoled one another around midfield.
“We missed our opportunities and if you want to win districts, you can’t miss your opportunities and we did tonight and unfortunately that’s why we’re going home,” Gorini said. “We’re proud of girls for what they did this season. Lot of kids coming back next year and we’ll get to work on next year soon enough.”
After Stopper made her penalty kick, it made it a 2-1 Loyalsock lead and put the pressure on the Warriors to stay in it.
“It’s momentum in a shootout, a shootout’s pretty mental when it comes down to goal keeper and shooting and when you get an edge like that you hope it’s playing into their mind, there’s more pressure on them to make it because they know if they miss, they go down two goals and Gracie’s (Schreckengast) lights out there,” Comfort said. “She’s practiced well all week in practice during the PKs and we have faith and confidence that she makes a stop or two.”
Montoursville came out aggressive against Loyalsock and scored a goal just two and a half minutes into the game. Kyleigh Balint took a ball down near the goal line before sending a great cross to her right to Caroline King, who took it just outside of the six and fired a great shot toward the center of the net for the early 1-0 lead.
Loyalsock countered though three minutes later when Jenna Gardner fired a shot just inside of the 18 toward the left post.
The Warriors played excellent from a defensive standpoint, limiting Loyalsock to just three shots on goal through 80 minutes of regulation, however two of those Loyalsock shots were goals.
“We came off a little flat it seemed like and frustration was boiling on field, but I believe during halftime we kind of collected ourselves after we got the equalizer and were able to fight back in the second half,” Jessell said.
(Loyalsock wins shootout, 3-1)
M-Caroline King (Kyleigh Balint), 38:33. L-Jenna Gardner, 35:16. M-Kaylie Schans, 37:14. L-Rhiallie Jessell, 2:53.
Shots: M 13, L 8. Corners: M 1, L 3. Saves: M (Avery Zales) 6, L (Grace Schreckengast) 11.