LEHMAN TWP. — The bar has been raised for girls soccer at Wyoming Area.
In 2016, the Warriors were delighted to win one district playoff game as an eight-seed before losing in the quarterfinals.
Last postseason brought the same result — a first-round win followed by a quarterfinal loss — but a very different reaction.
“When we lost to Berwick in the quarterfinal round, a bunch of us started — the next day — prepping for this day,” senior Aleah Kranson said Thursday. “We’ve had a long offseason, a hard offseason.”
Seniors Kranson, Sydni Johnson and Lauren Kelly had one final season to make history, and they didn’t let it slip away.
The Warriors embodied their team motto — “Together” — in a nail-biting, 1-0 win at two-time defending champion Lake-Lehman for the District 2 Class 2A title.
Kranson, the leading scorer in the Wyoming Valley Conference, scored in the first half, giving two-seed Wyoming Area its first district championship in girls soccer and also eliminating No. 1 Lehman and its 17-match win streak.
“She knows you’re not going to get a ton of shots, you’re not going to get a ton of opportunities,” said Wyoming Area head coach Nikki Sitkowski. “But the ones that you have, you have to make sure that you finish. And that’s what it comes down to. We finished when we needed to, and we held on defensively. We played together and that’s what we’ve been stressing from the beginning.”
Kranson spent most of the game on the Lehman side of the 50-yard line, waiting and getting into position for when her teammates moved the ball upfield.
With 11:53 left in the first half, Christina Kosco passed to Kranson, who slowed down to beat a defender and then scored the only goal.
“Me and her, we have a very good bond this year,” Kranson said of Kosco. “I know where she’s going, she knows where I’m going. I knew she was going to pooch it over the backline’s head — and she did that. Their keeper was coming out. I looked, I knew she was coming out. I took a touch to my outside and I just hit it with my left foot. I knew it was going in, I got a clean strike on it.”
After trailing 1-0 at halftime, Lake-Lehman came out with a frenzied attack in the second half.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Sitkowski said. “I was over there and had my breath held the entire time. I knew if we stuck to our game plan, we would be fine. But we always make it hard, and we made it hard at the end.”
The Black Knights’ offense that scored an astounding 26 goals in the first two rounds of districts applied pressure from beginning to end, but they were unable to score.
At 37:30, Keera Naugle’s shot deflected off the goalie’s fingertips and then clanked off the right post. At 35:00, Chase Purdy passed to an open Madison Brdaric, whose shot sailed wide right.
In the final 16 minutes of the game, Lake-Lehman hit three shots — by Abby Paczewski, Chloe Weaver and Purdy — off the crossbar.
“Luck was on our side. I’ll take it,” Sitkowski said. “Hey, we’ve been on the other side, where the ball has gone in or we had that last shot with 2 minutes left and it hit the crossbar. We’ve all been there. It’s part of sports. Somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. We got the winning end this time.”
Kelly finished with six saves for Wyoming Area (16-5), while Lake-Lehman’s (17-3) Emma Stroud also played a great game with eight stops.
In addition to its three seniors and Kosco, a sophomore, Wyoming Area started seven juniors in Julie Bonsavage, Sydney Maguire, Amanda McCormick, Caitlin McDonough, Tierney Porfirio, Abigail Yatsko and Carley Yuhas.
It was the tiebreaker of a season series the two teams split 1-1.
“The first time we played Lehman, we came out really hot and I think Lehman was a little shook up by that. We ended up winning that game,” Kranson said. “The second time, we came here and we did not go to the ball at all. They dominated the whole game. They killed us, really. Tonight, we knew that the series was 1-1 and we knew we wanted to come out hard. The seniors, we wanted this game, everybody wanted this game. And that was the difference tonight, we really wanted this game.”
Lehman’s season is over. WA will play in the first round of the state tournament Tuesday against District 4 champion Midd-West or Lewisburg.
FIRST HALF: Aleah Kranson (L-L) from Christina Kosco, 11:53.
Shots: WA 17, L-L 24. Corners: WA 2, L-L 6. Saves: WA (Lauren Kelly) 6, L-L (Emma Stroud) 8.
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Source: The Associated Press