RED LION — As Northeastern girls’ soccer senior Amanda Bentz stepped up to the ball with time ticking down in extra time, she knew two things.
The first was that her free kick was right in her comfort zone, just outside the 18-yard box.
The second was that she had to convert it, because she knew that the Bobcats wouldn’t get a much better chance to score against rival Dallastown.
Admittedly, she didn’t place it where she wanted, but it was just good enough to elude Wildcats’ keeper Ashley Wakeling to find the back of the net. It was a golden goal, coming with 5 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first extra-time session, giving Northeastern the 1-0 win in a York-Adams League girls’ soccer semifinal at Red Lion High School on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and sending the Bobcats into Thursday’s championship contest.
“Right between the 18- and 20-yard is my favorite spot to take free kicks,” she said. “It’s my spot and I knew it might be one of our last chances in the game. …I thought it was missing. I wanted to kick it a little more to the right and it was more center, but it went in, so it worked.”
Next up for the Bobcats in the championship game is another Division I foe, Central York. The Panthers were first in the division this season and are also reigning Y-A League champs. They got to the final after defeating Fairfield, 2-1, also in extra time. The title game is 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Bermudian Springs.
Nip-and-tuck game: With the way that Dallastown and Northeastern have played each other in their two previous meetings this season, it was fitting that one goal decided the outcome.
The Bobcats won the second meeting between the sides, 1-0, while the first game finished in a 1-1 tie. In Tuesday’s affair, very little separated the two Division I rivals again.
In both halves, it took Northeastern about 15-20 minutes to warm to the match, with the Wildcats coming out and dominating play. In the first half, Dallastown struggled to put its shots on target, while the second half saw Northeastern keeper Rachel Reeser come up with timely saves.
“It’s something we’ve addressed, but it isn’t clicking yet and, sooner or later, it’s going to haunt us,” Bobcats’ coach Diana Collier said about starting halves slowly. “…I don’t know what it is at the end? We have all this momentum and desire and grit and toughness … but I tell them that’s the same mentality we need to start with.”
Once Northeastern did find its legs, it created strong chances. Unlike the Wildcats in the first half, the Bobcats’ shots were finding the target, testing Wakeling to make key saves to keep the game scoreless.
The game stayed that way through the 80 minutes of regulation, but only thanks to a diving stop by Wakeling with 12 minutes to play on a shot that was driven to the lower corner.
Reeser matched Wakeling save-for-save, coming up with five of her own. Reeser’s performance helped solidify an overall strong effort by the Northeastern defense, which has had to be stout all year to keep a low-scoring Bobcat team in games.
“We just, foremost, defend and make sure that no team can beat us if they don’t score,” Bentz said. “Then, we try to find any opportunity when we get the chance to score, we take it.”
Northeastern didn’t fare as well against Central in league play this season, losing in the first meeting and then settling for a scoreless draw in the second encounter.
However, having seen the Panthers twice will help Collier game plan for the final.
“For me, as a coach, it’s good to know things. It’s easier to coach things that you know,” Collier said. “Not saying that they can’t come up with new things and new ideas, but I know their roster. Just like them, it’s going to come down to the kids competing and just finding those moments again, like how we’ve found those moments in the last couple playoff games.”
Ferguson's goal lifts Central: When Central York and Fairfield meet in girls’ soccer, it always seems to be a thriller.
Tuesday’s encounter in Manchester was no different.
Thanks to a goal by Hannah Ferguson with 4:43 seconds remaining in the first overtime, Central nipped Fairfield. Ferguson's game-winner was set up on a beautiful feed from Bre Sgrignoli, who got control near the Fairfield goal.
"All I heard was Hannah screaming for the ball and she did the rest," Sgrignoli said. "I saw the goalie slide to her left so I wanted to go to the right, and I was able to get it by her."
Central dominated play. It had 15 shots compared with Fairfield's two. However, the Green Knights took a 1-0 lead on Annabel Anderson's goal just 2:32 into the second half. Zoe Logue registered an assist. Sgrignoli, however, tied the score minutes later on an assist from Ferguson.
"We were thinking maybe it wasn't going to be our night because we were just missing shots," Central coach Eric Webb said. "But I was really pleased with the way we played. I think we're mentally and physically tough."
It helps to have a player of Sgrignoli's ability. Injured most of last year, the senior forward has made up for it this year with 17 goals.
"The momentum that we started to get at the end of last year has carried over to this year, and Bre has been a big part of that," Webb said.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com. George Hammond contributed to this report.