PLEASUREVILLE — As the final buzzer sounded, the entire Central York girls' soccer team sprinted onto the field, screaming and cheering as if it had just won the York-Adams League title.
The Panthers were celebrating a 1-0 win over visiting Northeastern on Thursday night,
The Panthers hadn’t won a title, but, the jubilant cries were for a myriad of other reasons.
They were for the seniors, who were victorious on their Senior Night.
They were for redemption, avenging an earlier 5-4 loss to the Bobcats.
Lastly, they were for relief, because this has been a Central team that’s struggled mightily this season winning close contests, a major factor in why the Panthers won’t be defending their Division I title.
“They were emotional from the start,” Central head coach Eric Webb said. “We’ve struggled in close games all year, so the last two nights we’ve found ways to win the close games, so that’s what this is about.”
The only difference in the contest came in the 74th minute when senior Lynsey Nicholas steered home the game’s only goal off a Panthers’ corner kick by fellow senior Rachel Wilhelm, beating both the Northeastern keeper and a defender hanging by the far post.
At that point, all Central (6-8-1 overall, 5-5-0 Division I) had to do was hang on for the final six minutes and it would prevent the Bobcats (10-5-0, 7-3-0) from controlling their own destiny to win the Division I crown.
“We’ve had such a tough season and this being Senior Night for me and all the other seniors, it’s just amazing,” Nicholas said. “I think in the second half, we started to dominate more of the possession and we were doing better in the back of shutting them down and we were having chance after chance and we finally got one in.”
The breakthrough was a longtime coming. Both teams turned up the intensity in the second half after playing to a scoreless first 40 minutes.
The Panthers earned the game’s first two corner kicks, only to see opportunities off of them sail wide of the goal. After that, it was Northeastern’s turn to counter, with junior Brittany Arentz coming within inches of providing the Bobcats with the game’s first goal. Her heavy strike from just outside the box in the 67th minute was punched in the air by Central keeper Rachel Szczypinski, only to then have it bounce behind Szczypinski and bounce over the bar and land on top of the goal. Northeastern earned three corner kicks in a row off of that save, but couldn’t turn them into any into goals.
“I thought if we held them to one, or even two goals, we’d be fine,” Bobcats’ coach Diana Collier said. “We just didn’t have it tonight. You saw their keeper make a save and the ball bounces, hits the ground and bounces over the crossbar. How many times is that going to happen? A rebounded ball bouncing 11 feet in the air?”
Certainly Northeastern felt it would match the Panthers in offense, even if it meant needing at least two goals to win. After all, Arentz is one of the best pure finishers in the league and torched Central for four goals in the prior meeting this season.
But, the Panthers were ready for her this time. While Arentz had her chances, for the most part, Central kept her shots from long range. Only once did she get in behind the defense in the first half, creating a one-on-one chance in the 21st minute, only to have Szczypinski match her attempt with a fine save to keep the game scoreless.
The difference defensively between this game and last game for the Panthers was dropping an extra defender behind their back line, serving almost as a safety, so that if Arentz did get behind the defensive unit, there’d be one player back to prevent a clear scoring chance.
“She’s quick. She’s good. She scores a lot of goals,” Webb said about trying to slow down Arentz. “We didn’t give her a lot of space. She got in behind us once in the first half, and our goalkeeper made a big save. But, other than that, our young girls, especially, stepped up big time and didn’t give her time and space to do what she did to us first time, when she scored four goals.”
Szczypinski made 15 saves for Central to keep her clean sheet, while Bobcats’ keeper Rachel Reeser stopped eight shots.
For the Panthers, the win was some consolation to an otherwise disappointing season.
On the other side, Northeastern is now left needing some help to earn at least a share of the Division I title. Going into the night, it had three games remaining, meaning wins in each of the last three and it would, at worst, tie Dallastown (7-2) for the division title. However, with the defeat, the Bobcats now only have two matches left, while the Wildcats have three remaining next week, meaning Northeastern needs Dallastown to drop at least one of those games to get a share of the Division I crown.
“We need help,” Collier said. “I’m struggling with that right now because it blows my mind after what (we’ve) accomplished.”
York Catholic 5, Biglerville 1: At York Catholic, Melanie Mathews and Courtney Nattans each posted a pair of goals and an assist to lead the Irish. York Catholic improved to 9-2 in York-Adams Division III.
York Suburban 4, Dover 1: At Suburban, Paige Bulgarelli led the Trojans by scoring three goals. Also for Suburban, Paige Linden scored one goal, Roma Williams added one assist and Jacqueline Shockey made nine stops in goal. For Dover, Kylie Firestone scored the lone goal.
Red Lion 2, Spring Grove 1: At Spring Grove, the visitors grabbed the narrow win. No other details were reported.
West York 3, Kennard-Dale 2 (OT): At Fawn Grove, the Bulldogs triumphed in overtime. No other details were reported.
Fairfield 9, Littlestown 1: At Littlestown, the Green Knights had no problems. No other details were reported.
Dallastown 4, New Oxford 0: At Dallastown, Carter Miller led the Wildcats by scoring three goals in the match. Drake Pew scored one goal and added two assists, while Chad Starner picked up one assist. The Wildcats held the Colonials to two shots on goal. Dallastown improved to 9-0-1 in York-Adams Division I.
Central York 7, Northeastern 0: At Manchester, Carter Luckenbaugh led the Panthers to the road victory by scoring four goals in the match. Also for Central, Pierrce Miller, Zak Kakos and Jake Broederdorf each scored one goal. The Panthers defense held the Bobcats to one shot on goal. Central improved to 9-0-1 in York-Adams Division I.
West York 3, Kennard-Dale 0: At West York, Josh May, Jordan Strickler and Kenton Meckley each scored a goal for the Bulldogs. Cameron Goodling recorded four saves in goal to register the shutout. West York improved to 7-4 in York-Adams Division II.
Red Lion 2, Spring Grove 0: At Red Lion, Ben Warner and Collin Conrad proved to be a dynamic duo for the Lions. Conrad assisted on both of Warner’s first-half goals and the Lions held on for the victory. Brock Gould made four saves in goal to record the shutout for Red Lion.
Gettysburg 9, Eastern York 1: At Wrightsville, Drew Wivell and Khai Chin each scored two goals in leading the Warriors to the road victory. No Eastern York stats were reported.
Dover 2, York Suburban 1: At Dover, the home team nipped the Trojans. No other details were reported.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.