GREENCASTLE — If you’ve been around the game of soccer enough, you know these kind of games can happen.
The kind where you want to pound your head against the wall, chanting, “How did we not win this game?”
As Greencastle-Antrim coach Chris Noblit said Monday night, “I just cannot believe we lost this game. It hurts.”
But the Blue Devils did trail on the scoreboard, 2-1, and Mechanicsburg picked up a victory in a District 3 Class 3A girls soccer semifinal game at Kaley Field.
The Wildcats (16-3-2) will try to defend their district title on Thursday at 5:30 at Hersheypark Stadium against Elco (16-2), a 3-1 winner in penalty kicks over Red Land. Greencastle (19-2) will play in the first round of the PIAA Tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 9, against either the District 1 champion (if Mechanicsburg wins Thursday) or the District 7 champion (if Elco wins).
The Blue Devils, who saw an 18-game win streak come to a halt, did just about everything right. They completely dominated the game from start to finish, out-shooting the Wildcats 28-4, and holding around a 70/30 possession edge. The only thing Greencastle could have improved on was finishing and not having two brief lapses on defense that cost them dearly.
“I think it was more us killing ourselves — we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” G-A forward Courtney Andruczk said. “We dominated, but it comes down to who finishes better … and they did.”
Mechanicsburg is built around the exceptional scoring prowess of striker Halle Engle, who has more than 300 points in her career, the steady goalkeeping of Arriel Frey and a bunch of role players and scrappy defenders like Kyra Dillon and Belle Guilliard.
The Wildcats managed to punch in a goal after only 5:35 had been played. The Greencastle defense failed to clear a bouncing ball and keeper Lexi Nelson could not get to it. Madison Michelitch was in the right place at the right time and found the net.
Mechanicsburg then rode that 1-0 edge for a long time, despite not coming close to another goal until the final 20 minutes.
Noblit said, “Their goalkeeper is elite, and you know Engle is really good. I mean, they have two really good players and they have them in the most important positions.”
G-A began the game with Mia Libby marking Engle everywhere she went. But that strategy changed with the early goal.
“We were marking her, but once they scored we had to go back to normal,” Noblit said. “And from that point on, I felt we totally dominated play.”
With Libby chasing down balls in the midfield and Avery Parks, Andruczk and Haley Noblit making runs and taking shots, the Blue Devils put the pressure on Mechanicsburg and kept it there the rest of the game. But most of their 12 first-half shots were not on target and Frey easily handled the others.
Parks found the range in the second half with several good shots and Andruczk made Frey stretch for one save, but the defense, now bolstered with an extra player, held fast.
Then Parks produced a work of art. She gained possession near midfield, carried the ball past a Wildcat, then took on Dillon, shielding her off for about 6 yards before unleashing a left-footed screamer into the upper far corner that Frey could not stop. It came with 15:50 left.
While Greencastle still maintained control of the ball, Engle made her one chance in the game count for the game-winner. The Wildcats sent in a harmless-looking ball toward Engle outside the box. Two G-A defenders had a chance to knock it away but did not, and Engle stepped between them and placed a shot into the goal.
The Blue Devils kept sending in shot after shot, but nothing else got through.
Coach Noblit said, “Maybe we took too many shots from outside, I don’t know. But (Frey) was handling everything and not giving up any rebounds, and when we tried go through or over the top, she was coming out and gobbled up everything.”
Andruczk said, “We’re going to move on from this when we have practice. We need to use this as good motivation for states.”
Mechanicsburg 2, Greencastle-Antrim 1
Mechanicsburg 1 1 — 2
Greencastle 0 0 — 1
M — Madison Michelitch, 6th minute
G — Avery Parks, 66th minute
M — Halle Engle, 76th minute
Shots — Mech 4; GA 28. Shots on goal — Mech 4; GA 11. Saves — Mech 10 (Arriel Frey); GA 2 (Lexi Nelson 1, Rylee Henson 1). Corner kicks — Mech 2; GA 1. Fouls — Mech 7; GA 7. Offsides — Mech 4; GA 0.