LANCASTER, Pa. – Penn State Harrisburg kicked off its 2014 campaign with a 1-0 shutout victory over former North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) rival Lancaster Bible on Friday evening, Aug. 29. Senior Jon Willingham (Harrisburg, Pa. / Sci-Tech High) netted the contest's lone goal off an assist from sophomore Austin Katz (Lancaster, Pa. / Manheim Township) in the game's 74th minute.
"I thought it was a very tough, intense game," said Penn State Harrisburg head coach Seamus Donnelly. "Full credit to Lancaster Bible; they threw everything they had at us and we were a little lucky to survive in the end."
Lucky or not, the Lions were able to exorcise some of 2013's demons by reversing a discouraging trend that saw them drop seven one-goal decisions last fall. It was only a matter of time before the ball bounced the way of the Blue & White.
The difference maker came when Katz found Willingham off a corner kick late in the second half. Willingham headed Katz's offering into the left side of the Lancaster Bible net to give the Lions a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Going forward, we know we need to get better in some areas but our outlook for the season remains very positive," said Donnelly.
The Lions' third year head coach was pleased with the work of midfielders Matt Vaz (Port Jeff, N.Y. / Ward Melville) and Alex Panuccio (Mechanicsburg, Pa. / Mechanicsburg Area) in their first collegiate outings as Penn State Harrisburg players. He also got the kind of stellar play he's come to expect from captains Malik Cameron (Bronx, N.Y. / Cardinal Spellman) and Mike Jones (Harrisburg, Pa. / Central Dauphin). Goalkeeper Brandon Hoover (Lancaster, Pa. / Pequea Valley) turned away five Charger attempts, including a highlight reel-worthy, full extension save in the first half.
"We had to withstand some scary moments but it was exactly the start we needed," said Donnelly. "It was a real test for sure. The boys know they've been in a tough game but we'll be ready to go again on Wednesday. I genuinely think we are capable of great things this season and a win is a lovely way to get our season going."
Penn State Harrisburg next takes the pitch when the Lions host Mt. Aloysius on Wednesday night, Sep. 3 in the team's 2014 home opener.
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