WEST CHESTER -- Central York had already done enough this season, in the eyes of Coach Frank Lenno, to earn his praise.
Entering Tuesday's first-round PIAA Class AAA boys' soccer playoff game against undefeated Great Valley, the Panthers had already won York-Adams Division I and York-Adams Tournament titles, and reached the District 3-AAA semifinals for the first time in program history.
Tuesday marked the program's first appearance in the state tournament.
"Oh, I told them before we even played that I'm so proud of them this year," Lenno said. "We made history doing stuff we haven't done."
That's not to say Central laid down for Great Valley.
As a matter of fact, the Panthers took an early one-score lead just 5 minutes, 31 seconds into the game when junior forward Calvin Luckenbaugh found the back of the net on an assist from senior Erik Rishel.
In fact, Central more than held its own, despite the final outcome, a 2-1 defeat to the District 1-AAA champ.
The two goals Central (22-4) gave up came on a deflection in front of the net off a Central defender and a controversial penalty kick. The tight contest only added to the wild atmosphere inside a crowded stadium on a cold night at West Chester East High School.
"Oh, they're disappointed when they don't play well," Lenno said. "It's gonna be a tough ride home."
Great Valley (23-0) was awarded a penalty kick at the 23:07 mark of the first half when a referee whistled Central senior defender Andrew Sauers for holding a Great Valley player during a previous direct kick attempt. Great Valley senior Jake Miller then easily drilled a penalty kick from 10 yards out into the right side of the net when Central senior goalie Chris Snowadsky guessed and dove in the opposite direction.
Locked 1-1 at halftime, Great Valley got its second score with 21:44 remaining when senior captain Michael Sprinkel wrestled the ball loose in front of the net in the middle of a scrum of Central defenders and nailed a shot that deflected off Panthers' junior defender Anthony Trona and bounced into the back left corner for a goal.
"There were two balls he (Snowadsky) probably didn't really have a chance on (stopping)," Lenno said. "PK (penalty kick), you always have a chance, but the other one I'm not sure you have a chance."
The teams were even in corners (4-4) but Great Valley put 10 shots on goal to Central's six. Snowadsky arguably had the best performance of the night with eight saves.
Central had a couple chances to tie it in the final 20 minutes. A bicycle kick from 15 yards out by Royce Clemens was stopped with a little more than 19 minutes remaining. About five minutes later, Clemens tossed a pass in from the side that crossed in front of the net, but Rishel was unable to track it down to put a shot on goal.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.