St. Mary's, Md. – The Penn State Harrisburg women's soccer team had their playoff hopes on the line Saturday when they faced off against the St. Mary's Eagles. Despite a tremendous second half effort, allowing three goals in the first twenty four minutes would be too much for the Lions to overcome.
Harrisburg was coming off a huge 4-0 win Wednesday over Wesley College; not only was it their first conference win of the year, it was the first Capital Athletic Conference win for the college's short history in the CAC.
That win extended the hopes of Harrisburg making a playoff run, adding an extra level of intensity in Saturday's match. Unfortunately, Harrisburg gave up a goal in the ninth minute of play and lost all the momentum they had gained from the recent win. The Eagles scored again in the 15th and 23rd minute and the Lions found themselves down 3-0 early into the contest. The girls then added some intensity and poise that helped to close out the half without allowing anything else dangerous.
The prospect of turning things around in the second half did not look good as the second half starting whistle blew. Fortunately Harrisburg came out with enough intensity to put the third place Eagles on their heels immediately. The Lions started putting in the extra work to keep the ball where they wanted it and positioned themselves to win it. Then the ball movement started to happen and next thing you know, shots and goal scoring chances came with it.
Leading some of the charge were the outside midfielders Mercedes Copeland (Reading, Pa. /Reading) and Christina Martinez (Brookhaven, Pa. / St. Anthony's) who looked determined to win everything near them while getting up and down the line on both ends of the field.
It was also great to see forwards Mae Lynn Gonzalez (Blakeslee, Pa. / Pocono Mountain West) and Fay Ansary (Hummelstown, Pa. / Hershey) who were tracking back to win balls, while also being the offensive threat up high for the Lions.
Harrisburg's best opportunity came when the central midfield Hannah Jorich (Middletown, Pa. / Middletown) switched the field and found Gonzalez who then sent a one touch through ball behind the Eagle's defense. Ansary was on the receiving end beating the keeper to the ball; her shot rolled just an inch outside the left post leaving the team scoreless.
In the last five minutes, Harrisburg brought out the theatrics which helped them almost squeak through again; this time thanks to an impressive bicycle kick from Jorrich from about 15 yards out. Ansary tried to run onto it and get a finishing touch, but instead it found the St. Mary's keepers hands for the save.
Mackenzie Gates (Harrisburg, Pa. / Central Dauphin) had to leave the game in the final ten minutes of regulation due to a rolled ankle. Giving everything she had, she got it wrapped and literally hobbled back on the field to finish the last few minutes. Gates added nine more saves today, keeping the top position on the conference leader board with 144 total saves this season.
Sophomore Kristen Peckman (Chambersburg, Pa. / James Buchanan) is another Lion who has been battling through an injury for most of the season. After making the move to defensive central midfield in the final third of the season, she has brought composure, strength, and size that has been an integral part of Harrisburg's 2-2 record this past four games.
"I was very disappointed with the first half performance. We all know how different we could have made this season if we played at a high level more consistently." Head coach Adam Clay continued with, "But watching the level and work rate in the second half and being able to go after one of the best teams in the conference has everyone excited about what we can do in the future. It took a special team to be able to play the second half the way they did today. I could not be prouder of our young women."
Harrisburg is now out of the playoff race, but will get to finish their season off in style playing against their newest conference rival York College Wednesday at home for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff under the lights.