Central catches fire in nick of time

Special to the Mirror

The first half of Monday’s District 6 Class 2A semifinal appeared to be a continuation of Central’s inability to capitalize on its prime opportunities. Last week, the No. 2 seeded Scarlet Dragons did not score until there was 2:51 left in the game despite dominating the game against Ligonier Valley in a 1-0 victory.

But this time around, it was Penn Cambria goalkeeper Madison Piatak who erased Central’s premium shots with a couple of jaw-dropping saves. After being tied at 1, Central added two goals in the second half to advance to their second district title game in the last three years with a 3-1 victory over No. 6 seed Penn Cambria at Mansion Park Stadium.

“It feels really good and I think we’ve worked really hard as a team to get here,” said Central senior defender Kirsten Laird, who scored the game-winning goal with 25:48 left in the second half.

Central will play No. 1 seed Bedford on Thursday at Mansion Park at 7:30.

After Central’s leading scorer Ashley Negley tied the game at 1-all after an assist from Emma Lingenfelter, Piatak was determined to keep the game right there. The junior made two incredible, diving stops within 50 seconds of each other. Piatak finished with 17 saves on the night.

“Their goalie played a great game tonight,” Central coach Brian Campbell said. “I thought their whole defense did. They didn’t really give us any easy shots.

“It was one of those nights again where we possessed for most of the game, we just had trouble finding the back of the net.”

Penn Cambria, who did not score until the second overtime last week, got on the board rather quickly on Monday. Junior Emmy Harvey got off a shot just before a charging Blair Miller could deflect it. Penn Cambria led 1-0 just 1:39 into the game.

Central, who defeated PC 3-0 on Sept. 28, was then able to settle in and generate plenty of chances. Piatak made a few saves while a couple shots sailed high. Negley eventually tied it at 1 with 25:10 left in the first half.

Piatak kept the game tied with highlight-reel diving saves on accurate shots near the posts.

“She has been unstoppable for us all season and she played amazing today,” Penn Cambria coach Mackenzie Walter said. “I would have to rate this as her top game this season.”

Despite generating quality shots, Central stayed on the attack and did not get frustrated.

“Honestly I didn’t notice any frustration, I was just glad that our shots were on target,” Laird said. “I think that really helped that none of us got in a fight with each other. We all worked together and encouraged each other.”

With 25:48 left, Central took its first lead. Cassie Mock’s corner kick was perfectly placed as Laird headed the ball in for a goal.

“Cassie’s really good at doing corner kicks. I just saw it coming it through and I made my way to the ball and headed it in,” Laird said.

After a feed from Mock, Ashley Sherry scored with 18:22 left to go up 3-1. Central finished with advantages in shots (42-4), shots on goal (20-3) and corner kicks (7-1).

Penn Cambria, who notched its first playoff victory in program history last week, only finished with four total shots. The Lady

Panthers return all 11 starters next year.

“The program has definitely soared in the past two years. Our junior class is very, very strong,” Walter said. “We only lose one senior.

We’re definitely not finished, we’re here to stay. The program is

definitely lifting up. We can’t wait till next year.”

SCORE BY HALVES

Penn Cambria 1 0 — 1

Central 1 2 — 3

First half: PC — Harvey (unassisted), 38:21; C-Negley (Lingenfelter), 25:10.

Second half: C-Laird (C. Mock), 25:48; C-Sherry (C. Mock), 18:22.

Records: Penn Cambria (11-9); Central (17-2-1).

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