Section Champs! Ephrata girls clinch title with win over Manheim Central

By on October 11, 2017
Members of the Ephrata girls soccer team celebrate after defeating Manheim Central Saturday to clinch the Section Two title. Photo by Kirk Niedermyer

Members of the Ephrata girls soccer team celebrate after defeating Manheim Central Saturday to clinch the Section Two title. Photo by Kirk Niedermyer

The Manheim Central girls’ soccer team needed a win Saturday morning at Ephrata if their hopes of a Section Two championship were to stay alive. The Lady Barons (9-3 league, 10-5 overall) came into the match two games behind the Lady Mounts (12-0, 15-1) with just three games to play.

As the numbers above show, Ephrata remained unbeaten in Lancaster-Lebanon League play, clinching the Section title with a dominating 3-0 win. The Lady Mounts, who captured the section for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000, got production from their big three, as junior co-captain Maddie Root and sophomores Annie Slovak and Abbie Wiest each had a goal and an assist in the victory.

“It feels great,” admitted Ephrata head coach Wes Deininger, when asked about clinching the section. “The girls have been so consistent in their mentality and the way they played. It shows by not having a blemish in the section at this point.”

With the section title already within their grasp, the Lady Mounts soon focus on the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, which begin Saturday at a site and time to be determined. As Section Two champs, Ephrata will face Section Three runner-up Donegal (12-1-3) in Saturday’s first round.

Saturday’s four winners will move on to Tuesday’s semifinals to be held at Manheim Central, and the finals will be held Thursday at Warwick.

The Lady Mounts got on the scoreboard nine seconds before the 10-minute mark of the first half, when Wiest found Slovak at the top of the goal box. Two touches later the section’s leading scorer found the left side of the goal for a 1-0 lead.

Both coaches agreed it was a critical score.

“It’s huge,” lamented Manheim skipper Andrew Stoltzfus. “The first time we played Ephrata (2-1 loss on September 18), we came out and got that first goal. It completely changed the momentum. But we let in a late goal. Today, they got the first goal. They were able to ride their momentum.”

“Ah man, it’s huge!” added Deininger. “Especially since we’ve been really good, defensively. To get goals on teams early, it forces them to push a little bit more forward. It gives us potentially more opportunities and more space.”

“We just couldn’t imagine being here,” explained Slovak of the section crown. “Now that we are, it’s crazy. We still have a lot ahead of us, so we can’t get too excited yet.”

Three and a half minutes later it was Slovak’s chance to be the helper, as she won the race to the ball deep in the right corner before setting up Root with a perfect cross for goal number two.

“It feels so awesome,” added Root. “We beat everybody in our section. It’s apparently the first one (girls’ title) in 17 years for Ephrata. It feels pretty good. Yeah!”

It remained 2-0 into halftime despite two near miss direct kicks, one by each team. Fifteen seconds after Root’s score, Manheim junior Maddie Carper blasted a free kick from 30 yards out that sailed just over the crossbar. Five minutes later, it was Wiest’s turn. Lady Baron goalkeeper Kelli Kreider got just enough of the 15 yard shot with her fingertips to send the ball off the crossbar as the home crowd groaned at the near miss.

“It’s really big,” stated Wiest. “We’re ready to win what’s next, whether it’s Leagues or Districts.”

Wiest did get her goal eight minutes into the second half, after a pass from Root. Ephrata did get several additional chances later in the second half, but could not convert.

“I think there were a few opportunities that we left out there,” noted Deininger. “We’ve continued to talk about that. We need to be a little bit more clinical in finishing teams off.”

Despite the loss, Central moved from the seventh to the sixth seed in the District Three AAA power rankings, due to strength of schedule. The Lady Mounts remain in the seventh position on the AAAA District list.

When asked to put on the coaches hat, the three girls each had ideas about what it would take for postseason success for this team.

“I think we need to start finishing plays more,” started Wiest. “We had a lot of chances on the net. We’ve gotta finish them.”

“We always have to improve on our passing,” added Root. “Sometimes we get a little bit sloppy out there.”

“Communication has always been something that we need to work on,” said Slovak. “And working off the ball, sometimes. We can do that too.”

The Lady Mounts out-shot the Barons 10-3 and keeper Jocelyn Umana registered three saves in completing her eighth shutout of the season.

Last Wednesday, Ephrata added a 2-1 victory over Lampeter-Strasburg.

In that one, the Lady Mounts overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit with second half goals by Root and Reagan McCarty. Slovak and Wiest added assists in the victory while Umana made 10 stops.

Ephrata returned to action Tuesday at Lebanon where the Lady Mounts scored an easy 10-0 victory over the Cedars.

Root and Ariana Shue both scored a pair of goals to pace Ephrata, which also got tallies from Slovak, Wiest, McCarty, Jaslexis Morales, Hannah Schrom, and Mya Mahlandt.

Ephrata completes the league season this evening (Wednesday) as the Lady Mounts host the Lady Bears (3-8, 3-10) from Elizabethtown at 7:00 p.m.


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