GREENCASTLE — You’d never know that Greencastle-Antrim is playing three players short in the midfield.
Because the scrappy and tenacious defense employed by the Blue Devils’ midfielders played a huge role in their team’s 2-0 victory over Twin Valley in a District 3 Class 3A girls soccer semifinal game at Kaley Field on Monday night.
No. 4 seed Greencastle (19-1-1) will now play in the District 3 championship game on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Cumberland Valley’s Eagle View Field against No. 2 Lower Dauphin (17-3-1), which defeated Northern York 3-1 in the semifinals.
The Blue Devils have also qualified to play in the PIAA State Tournament, which begins Nov. 8.
“For the first time this year, we played with five midfielders and just one forward,” G-A coach Chris Noblit said. “That made it tougher for Haley (Noblit) as the lone forward, but it was working for the defense.”
The Raiders (13-7-1) simply found it nearly impossible to control the ball on their offensive side of midfield. And when they did, most of the time a Blue Devil midfielder came back to disrupt the play or take the ball away.
“We played good defense trying to control their center mid (Ashley Lavrich),” Greencastle midfielder Maddie Koons said. “I’d say we did win the midfield, both with man marking and just keeping possession.”
Lavrich, who scored 19 goals this year, was limited to only one shot and it came on a free kick, a one-hopper secured by goalkeeper Lexi Nelson.
Koons played well, especially transitioning to offense, and Mia Libby was her usual pesky self, covering ground from one end of the field to the other.
But Greencastle also got big contributions from Natalie Hanks, Hailey Baker, Mary Murray, Caroline Logsdon and Zhen Reuter. They, along with the high pressure from defenders Aubrey Smith, Rylee Henson, Shaina Overcash and Abi Guthrie, kept Twin Valley from generating much of anything on offense, and also made it tough for them to get the ball out of their defensive end.
“We played like that all season; it shows our style of play,” center back Overcash said. “We’ve played together a lot, so we’ve built team chemistry. We pass the ball well and back each other up.”
At least twice when the Raiders tried to push forward, the defenders took the ball away and each of the four got a touch before moving the ball upfield.
A goal in the eighth minute tipped the scales in Greencastle’s favor. A Twin Valley foul at their own end enabled Henson to set up on the left side. Her free kick went over the defenders and Libby headed it in before keeper Leah Schlimme could recover.
Sixteen minutes later, Greencastle made it 2-0. Reuter passed the ball into the center to Koons and she did the rest.
“Zhen centered the ball and I saw I had space, so I took a shot,” Koons said. “The ball deflected off one of their players and rolled past the goalie.”
The Blue Devils controlled play just as much in the second half and took nine shots, but did not add to their goal total.
Chris Noblit said, “We just couldn’t get another one in. We thought about pushing Mia up, but with the lead we didn’t think that was the right move.”
NOTES: Greencastle out-shot the Raiders, 18-2, and had more corner kicks, 6-0 … Thursday will mark the Blue Devils’ second-ever appearance in the district final — they won a title in 2014 over Conrad Weiser … The three midfielders out for G-A include Abi Wolfe and Sajel Sriram for the season and Brooke Guthrie, who was ill and may be back Thursday
Greencastle-Antrim 2, Twin Valley 0
Twin Valley 0 0 — 0
Greencastle 2 0 — 2
GA — Mia Libby, asst. Rylee Henson, 8th minute
GA — Maddie Koons, asst. Zhen Reuter, 24th minute
Shots — TV 2; GA 18. Shots on goal — TV 1; GA 8. Corner kicks — TV 0; GA 6. Saves — TV 6 (Leah Schlimme); GA 1 (Lexi Nelson). Fouls — TV 7; GA 6. Offsides — TV 0; GA 0.