MANCHESTER — The Susquehannock girls' soccer players knew they were in for a challenge when they squared off against Northern York in a District 3-AA semifinal contest at Northeastern High School on Monday.
The No. 1 seeded Polar Bears entered the contest with 10 shutouts en route to an impressive 18-2 record. But the strength of the Northern team was its offense, which entered with 96 goals, and it was the Bears' offense that most concerned Warriors coach Pat Brubaker.
Playing a defensive-minded set, Brubaker's club played well beyond his expectations, limiting Northern to just a single goal.
Ultimately, however, it was that one tally, a 19-yard laser off the foot of Toni Feite with 1 minute, 4 seconds left in the first half, that proved decisive in a 1-0 setback for the Warriors.
The victory sends the Polar Bears into the District 3-AA finals for the third time in four years. They will face No. 2 seed Fleetwood (18-1-3), which downed No. 6 seed ELCO in the other semifinal on Monday, 1-0. The title game is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
No. 5 seed Susquehannock (14-4-2) and ELCO (16-5-1) will battle for the third-and-final berth into the PIAA state tournament in a consolation contest on Saturday.
"They're a phenomenal team," Brubaker said of Northern. "We scrimmaged them actually, so we knew they were good. They're just so fast and technical and well coached, so we knew it was going to be a challenge."
The Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division champions were still able to create scoring chances throughout the match, but the Warrior defense and goalie Ashley Stone were up to the task almost every time.
The only time they relented came late in the first half when Feite was able to find enough room to register her score.
"To give up a goal like that, right before halftime, I wasn't sure how we would respond," Brubaker said. "I thought the floodgates might open, but we played them 0-0 in the second half."
The Warriors were only able to get two soft shots on the Northern goal. Maddy Mummert, who led Susquehannock in goals for the season, found it impossible to find any room to work with when she was able to get a handful of touches.
"We just couldn't create enough chances," Brubaker said. "And give credit to them ... they didn't allow us any chances."
The loss in the program's first-ever district semifinal appearance won't mean the end of the line for a highly motivated Warrior side. They know that a victory over ELCO will create some additional history — they would become the first girls' team in school history to advance to the state playoffs.
"We'll have to try to get healthy and come out strong," Brubaker said of an ELCO side he knows very little about. "We'll do our best to see if we can get a result."
Notes: Susquehannock had to play the contest without starting defender Brenna Jones. One of the team's anchors in the backfield, Jones suffered a knee injury last week. She warmed up before the contest but was unable to give it a go.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.