MANCHESTER — Senior Night for any athletic program can bring out a wave of emotions.
For the Northeastern girls' soccer team, those emotions reached a whole new level on Thursday, Oct. 12.
With eight players taking part in their last guaranteed home game, it was a chance to go out on top.
Along with that, the team recognized a senior who wasn’t with the team, Abby Osborn, who was killed in a hit-and-run car accident this past spring.
The program also honored Brittany Arentz, the team’s standout scorer who suffered a torn ACL just days before the start of the regular season.
The team made sure to give Osborn and Arentz proper senior accolades.
Arentz took the opening kickoff and then picked up Osborn’s No. 20 jersey that was lying at her spot on the field, unoccupied by a player, bringing out a new set of feelings from the players.
When the game finally did get underway for good, it took a while for any action to occur, but the little that did favored the Bobcats, who edged Spring Grove, 1-0, to put a positive end on an emotional night and regular season.
“I think it was really difficult for a lot of us,” senior Amanda Bentz said. “Coming off of a time when we’re really sad and staying super focused and making sure you’re playing soccer and playing 100 percent is really difficult and I think you saw that in the first five or 10 minutes, we weren’t playing our best.”
Neither team could really generate any offense in the opening half, leading to a rather uneventful scoreless tie at halftime.
Coming out of the break, Northeastern (9-4-4, 6-2-4 York-Adams League Division I) started bringing the pressure, but it didn’t result in a goal until there was less than 14 minutes left in the contest. That’s when a series of good build-up passes led to Amanda Leisses laying off a perfectly-weighted pass to Bentz, who buried a looping shot over the Rockets’ keeper to provide the only goal of the night.
“We were able to get our striker up on top of the 18 (yard box) with her back to the goal instead of going 100 miles an hour forward in transition,” head coach Diana Collier said. “It was actually sustained possession for a bit, to the point where, again our striker could have her back toward goal and it was just a simple layoff and Bentz with the touch.”
Spring Grove (3-7-2, 1-7-2 Division I) never really threatened to equalize after that, failing to register a shot on target and challenge Bobcats’ keeper Rachel Reeser.
Bobcats rolling into postseason: While the outcome of the game didn’t hold any bearing on whether Northeastern would have a postseason, the team wanted to make sure it went into the playoffs with momentum.
With the losses of Osborn and Arentz, the Bobcats found themselves without two key pieces.
Playing in a very difficult Division I, making it back to the league and district playoffs would require every player to increase their contributions for the entire season. They did just that, finishing in third place in Division I to qualify for the league tournament, while also securing a berth in the District 3 3-A playoffs.
“Every single player on the field had to pick it up and they did,” Bentz said. “…They’ve taken on that responsibility of communication, or defending, or scoring a goal, or something that Abby or Brittany did that they can do.”
With Thursday’s win over Spring Grove, Northeastern enters the postseason on a tear. The Bobcats have won five of their last six games, with that one other result being a tie. The team’s last defeat came back on Oct. 2, a 1-0 defeat in a non-league contest against East Pennsboro.
That type of run has Northeastern feeling like it’s playing its best soccer at the perfect time of the year, with its most important games looming.
“We made a couple of key changes and, basically, just team defending has gone through the roof,” Collier said. “I’ve said this at the beginning of the year, and I don’t know if we all bought in, but we have now. ... We’re typically not going to score a lot of goals and we don’t have to. You only need to win by one, so I’m not saying we’re packing it in and be a defensive team, but we’re trying to have smart team shape, trying to defend as a team, not as little units.”
The Bobcats will take part in the league tournament starting Saturday, while they currently sit in the 10th spot in the District 3 3-A power ratings prior to Thursday’s win.
Gettysburg 3, Dover 2: At Dover, Bonita Soliday led the Warriors by scoring one goal and adding one assist. For the Eagles, Libby McKeever scored a first-half goal, while teammate Alexis Pelkey made 22 stops in goal.
Fairfield 6, York Catholic 0: At Fairfield, Angela DeBolt made 13 saves in a losing cause.
York Catholic 3, Fairfield 1: At York Catholic, Seth Falvey led the Irish to the victory by scoring one goal and adding one assist. Also for the Irish, Bryan Bullen added two assists, while Nick DeMarco and T.J. McGraw each scored one goal.
Susquehannock 2, York Suburban 0: At Glen Rock, Jason Weger and Zach Buchanan each scored in the first half as the Warriors collected the home win. Griffin Kaifer made two saves to recorded the shutout in goal. Trojans goalie Cody Willoughby stopped nine shots.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.