‘Stating’ their case

By on November 7, 2018
Ephrata keeper Jocelyn Umana (in black) makes a tough save in front of teammates Brooke Ludwig (32) and Maddie Root (13) during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Wilson in the District third-place game. Photo by Travis Boyd

Ephrata keeper Jocelyn Umana (in black) makes a tough save in front of teammates Brooke Ludwig (32) and Maddie Root (13) during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Wilson in the District third-place game. Photo by Travis Boyd

After beating Wilson to earn third place in District, Ephrata girls shock District One champ Conestoga 2-1 in first round

District One, which covers the Philly suburbs, traditionally is one of the top soccer areas in the State.

Ephrata was not only up against District One Tuesday in the opening round of the State 4A Tournament at West Chester East High School, but it’s top team in Conestoga.

That didn’t seem to phase the Lady Mounts one bit, however, as Ephrata overcame an early 1-0 deficit with a pair of scores midway through the first half to take the lead. Then in the second half, the Lady Mounts’ defense clamped down on the Pioneers’ attack, rarely allowing Conestoga to penetrate the box.

And in what has to be one of the big stunners of the entire first round, Ephrata (20-2-1) knocked off the top dogs of District One by the 2-1 result.

Maddie Root tied the game in the 17th minute, scoring on a PK after a foul occurred in the box. Then seven minutes later, Kristen Homan’s ball off a free kick from about 30 yards out slipped through the hands of Conestoga keeper Sarah Nselel and found the net for the eventual gamewinner. Ephrata keeper Jocelyn Umana was strong in net, turning away four shots as the Lady Mounts pulled off the huge win.

Ephrata’s Abbie Wiest (14) heads the ball in the direction of a teammate in the win over Wilson. The Lady Mounts advanced to States with the win, and went on to defeat District One champion Conestoga in Tuesday’s State playoff opener. Photo by Travis Boyd

Ephrata’s Abbie Wiest (14) heads the ball in the direction of a teammate in the win over Wilson. The Lady Mounts advanced to States with the win, and went on to defeat District One champion Conestoga in Tuesday’s State playoff opener. Photo by Travis Boyd

“Going into the game we knew it was good to be a really tough match but we knew that if we all put our best effort forward we could do whatever we put our minds to,” Root said after the victory. “It’s really an amazing feeling.”

“This is crazy,” added Homan. “This is the first time in my whole high school career we’ve been in States, and it’s just kind of surreal. It’s just really cool to be a part of it, especially with this team. It’s just really great for everyone and I hope it continues.”

While the Pioneers closed out a 19-2-2 campaign Tuesday, Ephrata (20-2-1) will advance to Saturday’s Quarterfinals where it will face District One four seed Penncrest (11-7-4), which knocked off District Four champ Willamsport Tuesday by a 2-1 score.

“It’s huge,” Ephrata Coach Wes Deininger said of the victory. “We came out ready to work hard…every game is different, every match is different. When you get in tournament play, sometimes it depends on matchups, and I think we matched up really well with (Conestoga) and were able to neutralize a lot of what they wanted to do. We created some good chances early and got the goals that we needed.”

An eerie fog rolled in soon after the opening kickoff, and Ephrata spent the majority of the first 10 minutes in the Conestoga third but neither team could generate many chances.

However, that all changed in the 13th minute when the Pioneers’ Emily Wertz made a run down the left side before crossing to Ashley Greenberg, who was stationed in the middle near the top of the box. Greenberg headed the ball forward over an Ephrata defender and right to the foot of teammate Nia Scott, who turned and beat Umana from point-blank range for the 1-0 Conestoga lead.

But the Lady Mounts responded less than four minutes later when Root was awarded the PK. She calmly stepped up and ripped a shot into the lower left corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

“That just gave us a whole new start to the game,” Root said of the equalizer. “You are right back to even and you know anything can happen. Even if you don’t have possession most of the game, it’s a soccer game. You get one goal and make sure you play really strong defense and I think we did that tonight.”

Deininger added, “That was massive. It was massive to see ourselves get down in the attacking end and put some pressure on. And once you see the first goal it makes you feel really good.”

With newfound confidence, Ephrata took the lead for good seven minutes later, catching a break when Nselel couldn’t corral Homan’s high arcing shot.

“In those situations, especially since it was kind of a longer kick I just try to find someone’s head or hope someone will get a touch on it and make a run in, but I just got lucky and it slipped through,” Homan said. “I was just kind of shocked to see it go in. I didn’t really expect it, but I was happy.”

With the lead, Ephrata did have to survive a few scary moments late in the half after several nice runs down the left side by Wertz. On two separate occasions, Conestoga was awarded free kicks during that stretch, but the Ephrata defense stood tall and cleared both out of harm’s way.

Ephrata then stabilized things in the second half, and actually had the better of the opportunities through the first 30 minutes. Defensively, the Lady Mounts forced Conestoga wide and made it difficult for the Pioneers to penetrate the box.

“We knew who their stronger players were and we knew they were really good on the ball, especially closer to the goal,” Homan explained. “We just kind of marked them and knew not to let certain players turn. We had to just try to keep them wide, and try not to let them cross and just try to contain them.”

Deininger added, “I think we just dug in and didn’t give up any great opportunities in the second half.”

Conestoga’s best chance to tie actually came with about two minutes to play as Caitlin Donovan was taken down by an Ephrata defender just outside the box. But her ensuing free kick came in low and Umana was able to gobble it up, and the Lady Mounts were able to kill off the remaining clock and earn their biggest victory of the season.

“District One is always traditionally as good as anyone and (Conestoga) won District One,” Deininger said. “There is no reason we can’t believe that we can go out and challenge anyone.”

Root, a senior, certainly doesn’t want it to end.

“It’s just crazy…it just feels so good,” she said. ‘You just never know when it’s going to end, so just to keep it going feels awesome.”

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Ephrata qualified for the State Tournament by virtue of defeating Wilson 1-0 Saturday afternoon at Cedar Crest in the District Three third-place game.

The Lady Mounts, who defeated Wilson by the same 1-0 score in a non-league game at Mountaineer Field back on Oct. 1, got on the board five minutes into the game on their first shot Saturday as Root took it down the left side and blasted a shot past Wilson keeper Darcia Jones (3 saves) to give Ephrata the quick advantage.

And although there were some stressful situations in the second half Wilson hit a pair of posts and spent the majority time in Ephrata’s end the Lady Mounts held on for the win and third place in the District.

“We are really resilient and we are finding results,” Deininger said after the win. “Honestly that’s what matters right now. We found an early goal and found a way to keep them out.”

“This was huge for the program,” he continued. “They are obviously pumped about it. You want to keep playing and to be one of only three teams in the District to get to the State Tournament, and being on the smaller side of 4A, it’s quite an accomplishment.”

While the first half was fairly even, Wilson (19-4-2) was pressing down the stretch. First, in the 53rd minute, the Bulldogs’ Natalie Vicari rang a shot off the post before Ephrata cleared it out of harm’s way. Then, halfway through the second half, Kayla Pennington was all alone out in front but shot it off the post to Umana’s left.

After that, Ephrata stabilized and held Wilson at bay the rest of the way.

For the game, Wilson out-shot the Lady Mounts 8-4 and held a 5-2 advantage in corners. Umana was once again strong in net for the Lady Mounts, making eight saves on the afternoon to earn the shutout win.

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