Loyalsock beats Williamsport with a goal in the final 15 seconds

BRETT R. CROSSLEY/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Loyalsock’s Hannah Knecht clears a ball near midfield during a game against Williamsport at the Balls Mills Soccer Complex on Tuesday night.

Loyalsock and Williamsport soccer fans were given a treat as both teams got together for a primetime contest under the lights of the Balls Mills Soccer Complex.

Williamsport had a chance to add to an already huge start as it defeated Central Mountain to open the season. For Loyalsock, it was a chance to learn early what the team was all about as the contest opened the season for the Lancers.

It came down to the final seconds as both teams played outstanding defensively throughout both halves. In the closing seconds of the match Anna Burdett sealed the win in favor of the Lancers as she popped a shot up from just across midfield. The high shot beat the outstretched fingers of Lila Vogelsong as Loyalsock walked off the field a 1-0 winner to open the season.

“We didn’t really create a ton in the second half,” Loyalsock coach Ben Comfort said. “We were defending a bit more than I wanted us to, but one good opportunity can win you the game.”

The shot might have looked like one that simply caught the keeper off her line, but Comfort coached his players up at halftime and told them to shoot high shots from distance.

“We hit shots from distance in the first half and their keeper was well off her line,” Comfort said. “She was playing above the six-yard box. Fortunately, with 15 seconds left, we were able to hit one high. A goal is a goal. It doesn’t matter how it goes in: it’s a goal.”

The second half opened with sparks as Rhandie Jessell nearly hit pay dirt with a shot from deep in the attacking zone. She put a move on a defender and sent a ball across the face of the goal. It was a solid attempt, but it failed to cross the line as it rolled out for a goal kick.

It would be most of the offense for Loyalsock throughout the second half as Williamsport played much better throughout the final 40 minutes of the match.

“We were too hesitant and we were slow on our offense instead of going on the attack quicker,” Williamsport coach Scott McNeil said. “Loyalsock was shutting our backs down and we thought we would have more success by attacking the middle.”

Williamsport’s Lila Vogelsong was a busy throughout the game, but made a few crucial stops in the opening half. At 11:19 she was forced to make a diving stop on a through ball. She slammed into the ball and prevented any shots from Loyalsock. She finished with five stops in the first half, but prevented plenty more chances from materializing throughout the match.

Not to be outdone by her counterpart, Loyalsock’s Mari Houseknecht, in the first varsity start of her career, was just as good. With just 18:59 left in regulation Alexandra Lake broke for the goal and forced Houseknecht into a diving stop as she attempted to cross the ball to the middle of the field.

Williamsport’s offense started to click in the second half as it posted four shots throughout the first 20 minutes. It only managed one shot in the first half despite posting seven corner attempts.

One of Williamsport’s best chances of the game came with 14:46 left to play when Kathryn Penman flew by a defender for an open look at the goal. She went near post and Houseknecht was able to close down the angle and make the stop. Penman had another good attempt late in the second half when she crossed the face of the goal and put a shot directly on net. Once again Houseknecht was there for the stop.

“It kind of just felt like practice,” Houseknecht said. “It was more about having to get the job done. Any big save for me feels like I save the team especially in a game like this. It just means everything to everyone on the team.”

Williamsport’s offense pressured throughout the match. A flurry of chances during the first half allowed the Millionaires four consecutive corners. Kailee Helmrich took all four corners as Williamsport pressured throughout most of the first half.

On Williamsport’s ninth attempt from the corner it finally logged a direct chance on the net when Angeline Morrone came up from the midfield and put a shot on goal from distance. The attempt came from a breakaway by Samantha Reeder, who was taken down by Houseknecht as she took the ball away with a diving stop.

“The team played well around her, which enabled her to play well,” Comfort said of Houseknecht. “They fed off of each other. She might be a little new to the whole keeper thing, but she picks things up quickly.”

Loyalsock went with quantity and quality in the first half as all five of its shots went on target. Sam Stopper posted the first shot as Loyalsock used the midfield to control the ball and send attackers up toward the goal.

Williamsport pressured throughout the first half, logging seven corners in the process, but only posted one shot throughout the opening 40 minutes of the contest.

L-Anna Burdett (unassisted), 89:48.

Shots: L 7, W 5. Corners: L 1, W 13. Saves: L (Mari Houseknecht), 5; W (Lila Vogelsong), 6.

Records: Loyalsock (1-0), Williamsport (1-1). Next game: Hughesville at Loyalsock, Wednesday, 7 p.m; Selinsgrove at Williamsport, Saturday, 11 a.m.