MANCHESTER — Greencastle-Antrim’s magical ride through the girls soccer playoffs ended one step short of playing for the PIAA Championship.
The Blue Devils met their match in a state semifinal game at Northeastern’s Bobcat Stadium, falling 3-0 to Upper Perkiomen on Wednesday night.
G-A ends its fine season with a 21-3-1 record and went further into the playoffs than any other Blue Devil soccer team. Upper Perk (25-0-1) will face Moon (23-0) for the state title on Friday at 4 p.m. at Cumberland Valley H.S.
“I’m incredibly proud of this team and what we accomplished,” senior center back Rylee Henson said. “I didn’t think we could get this far when we started the season, but we fought hard at every practice and every game.”
Greencastle was not overwhelmed in the game, and, in fact, outplayed the Indians for most of the first half, especially from about the 22nd minute to the 38th.
The rebound of a free kick by Henson was headed into the net, but the play was ruled dead because her kick hit the football crossbar first. Another direct kick by Henson clanged off the soccer crossbar and the UP defense cleared it out.
Haley Noblit had one good rip, but Indian goalkeeper Ava Long smothered the low shot.
“That first half, when we had it down there and couldn’t score, that really cost us,” Blue Devil coach Chris Noblit said. “If we get the lead, we have the momentum and that’s big in soccer. Plus, I could have moved some people back on defense to help out, too.
“We had our chances and couldn’t put it in.”
Henson said, “That might have been our best first half of the season. We had some good shots and we controlled them. But sometimes when you have a lot of the play and don’t score, that’s the difference.”
That’s why the first-half goal by Upper Perkiomen was such a dagger. It came against the run of play with just 1:37 left before halftime.
Greencastle’s defense was playing an offside trap and it thought it had an attacker offside. The Indians took a shot that hit G-A goalkeeper Lexi Nelson in the face and sent her to the turf. The ball remained in play and the officials did not stop the game for the injured player.
The ball rolled deep into the penalty area, where UP’s Sarah Straup ran it down and crossed it the whole way across the goal mouth, where it was kicked in from close range by Morgan Sweed. Nelson was still down near the outside edge of the penalty area.
Noblit said, “The problem was, our defense stopped playing. There was a girl in an offside position near the goal and that’s why they stopped. We’ll have to watch the film, but our girls thought the girl who scored was offside, too.”
“The official said the girl laying near the goal never played the ball,” Henson said.
The Indian attack had produced several good chances in the game’s first 20 minutes by making through passes between the G-A defenders. Sarah Fisher had a pair of 1-on-1 encounters with Nelson — Nelson stopped one and Fisher sent the second wide of the net.
In the second half, those same kind of passes took their toll.
Defender Lauren Powers sent a pass through the defense that set Sara Edwards free down the right side, and she scored on a shot that buzzed into the low far corner eight minutes into the half for a 2-0 lead.
The Indians capped the scoring on a similar play. Edwards got to a pass by Powers just ahead of a defender and her quick shot from about 30 yards out was a blast that soared over Nelson’s head. It was her 32nd goal of the season.
“We tried to get them offside, but sometimes we didn’t catch them,” Henson said.
Noblit said, “We had to take some chances because we were behind.”
Greencastle mustered only one dangerous chance in the second half, when a cross on a free kick by Henson was headed off the left post by Mia Libby.
Said Noblit on his way to the locker room: “I have go in there and tell the girls that they should not be feeling bad about this game. They should be really proud of what they accomplished.”
NOTES: Henson will play at La Salle University next fall and Libby, who was sick and not near 100% for the game, will play at Messiah College … The only other G-A senior starter was Abi Guthrie … Nelson made 5 saves for G-A … It was the first time all year that the Blue Devils allowed more than 2 goals; it had conceded 2 on three occasions … Upper Perk will play for its first-ever state title Friday — its 3 PIAA wins this year are the first-ever for the school.
Upper Perkiomen 3, Greencastle-Antrim 0
Greencastle 0 0 — 0
Upper Perkiomen 1 2 — 3
UP — Morgan Sweed, asst. Sarah Straup, 38th minute
UP — Sara Edwards, asst. Lauren Powers, 8th minute
UP — S. Edwards, asst. Powers, 68th minute
Shots — GA 12; UP 14. Shots on goal — GA 5; UP 6. Saves — GA 3 (Lexi Nelson); UP 5 (Ava Long). Corner kicks — GA 4; UP 2. Fouls — GA 5; UP 11. Offside — GA 1; UP 2.