Bedford makes history with title
HERSHEY — Leading up to Saturday, Bedford’s Amber Thomas had scored 144 goals in her high school soccer career.
The midfielder scored in a variety of ways in all sorts of situations with many different things on the line.
Though all the goals helped, whether long term in building the team or short term in this season, in getting the Lady Bisons to the PIAA Class 2A state championship, it was the 145th and last goal of her scholastic career that lifted her team to the highest level possible — a state title.
Thomas’ penalty kick just 52 seconds into the first overtime gave Bedford a 1-0 victory over Lewisburg, the District 4 runner-up, at Hersheypark Stadium.
“It’s great to come out on top,” Bedford coach Jeff Thomas said. “I was looking at them roller coasters over there (at Hersheypark) during the game like there’s so many highs and lows during the game … They (Lewisburg) definitely came to play, and we were just fortunate to come out on top.”
The Lady Bisons not only capped off an unbeaten season at 22-0 but they also became the first school from District 5 or 6 to claim a girls state championship in soccer, and the first overall from the district since the State College boys captured the crown in 1976.
Meanwhile, the Green Dragons overcame a 4-7 start to their season to finish runner-up with a 13-9-2 record.
“It took awhile to get them (Lewisburg) going. It took a couple of heart-to-heart meetings when I told them if they made the playoffs, they could be dangerous but you’ve got to believe it,” Lewisburg coach Jose Vega said. “At some time, the light went on and they started playing a lot better. We went into a run playing with confidence, playing good defense and we rode it all the way to the final.”
Bedford had come close the last two years with back-to-back losses in the state semifinals. It was that experience, coupled with playing into OT in their quarterfinal win and into a shootout in the semis, that gave the Lady Bisons confidence once the match reached the overtime session.
“That was my fourth time making it to the state semifinals — twice with the boys and twice with the girls — and we finally made it through,” Jeff Thomas said.
Despite being out shot by Lewisburg, 8-4, heading into extra time, the Lady Bisons were confident in each other that if they played their game, they would get the break they needed.
“That’s what we told them when it was going into overtime; ‘we just got to get the ball down to the outside, cross it in to the box and see what happens, because one goal is going to win the game’,” Jeff Thomas said.
That break came when Abigail Donaldson was tripped in the box going after a cross with 19:08 showing on the clock.
“I didn’t know where I was. I was hoping I was in the box and I was hoping he (ref) was going to call it,” Donaldson said. “I kept yelling at Robyn Casalena, ‘Am I in the box? Am I in the box?’ She said ‘yes’ and I just blew up. I was so happy. I’ve never been so happy to fall over in my life.”
While Lewisburg did an outstanding job of shadowing, being physical and making sure that Thomas did not beat them throughout regulation, there was no doubt Thomas was taking the shot with the match on the line.
The senior calmly buried it just to the right of Green Dragons’ goalkeeper Lauren Gross to clinch the title.
“I just made sure I focused. I made sure I was picking my spot at the goal and not looking at anybody else — that was my main focus,” Amber Thomas said. “It was like other ones I’ve had in previous playoff games. I just had to do what I’ve been doing.”
The two teams played in a defensive battle that saw several close chances by each team only to be denied.
“It was a game where both teams played great defense,” Vega said. “I thought as the game went on we were getting better and better. We were putting pressure — the forwards were making runs and we were creating shots.
“Then the ball got in the penalty box and, it doesn’t matter. The referee called it whether we like it or not and that was all. It was an unlucky break for us and a lucky break for them.”
Lewisburg had more chances to score in the opening half as they ripped off six shots with four of them being on goal.
However, it was Bedford which had the best chance as Thomas’ direct kick off of a Green Dragons tripping penalty hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced back in play.
“That must have been close,” Jeff Thomas said. “Those rounded goals like that, sometimes you have the rectangle goals — it makes a big difference. With the rectangle, it might have been it, but evidently it didn’t go in on the rounded. It’s a game of inches.”
Thomas’ teammate, Kiley Horne, was in perfect position on her crash to the net, and she was able to get the ball past Gross, who came charging out.
Lady Bisons’ Jenna Brown was crashing from the backside to make sure the ball reached the back of the goal. However, before Brown could get there, the Green Dragons’ Chloe Michaels stepped in front of Brown and cleared the ball out of danger to keep the match scoreless around the 3:30 mark.
Lewisburg had the best chance of the second half when Allie Reed chipped a ball to Selena Permyashkin, who outraced a Bedford defender for a shot from about 9 yards out at around the 19 minute mark.
However, when Permyashkin turned to look at the goal, the senior found a charging Lindsay Mowry charging out, and rather than keeping the ball on the ground and tapping it around Mowry, she lifted it slightly in the air and right at the arms of Mowry, who deflected it away.
“I saw that she (Permyashkin) was open in the middle, and I was yelling for my girls to come get her, but no one really stepped quick enough,” Mowry said. “I just knew that if they scored, they would be up, and I did not want that to happen. I did whatever I could to block it, and it just came right to me, so I was grateful for that.”
Both teams had chances off of direct kicks but the shots were either right at the opposing goalkeeper or sailed wide of the net.
In addition to Thomas, the Lady Bisons also sent four other seniors — Brown, Brooke Lankey, Hallie Sisk and Bailey Donaldson out with the title.
“It’s unreal. I don’t even know what to think right now,” Amber Thomas said. “It’s what we’ve been working so hard for. It’s just a great team to be apart of. I love them all.”
The Green Dragons lose four seniors as well in Reed, Permyashkin, Sarah Ayers and Cassia Kiepke.
“Just after last year losing in the semis was terrible,” Brown said. “I knew we just had to keep improving and getting better. It was my last year to do it, so I just figured why not go out with a bang.”
SCORE BY HALVES
Lewisburg 0 0 0 — 0
Bedford 0 0 1 — 1
First Half: none.
Second Half: none.
First overtime: B–Thomas (penalty kick), 19:08.
Goalies: Lewisburg — Gross: 2 saves, 3 shots on goal; Bedford — Mowry: 6 saves, 6 shots on goal.
Shots: Lewisburg 8; Bedford 5.
Corner kicks: Lewisburg 3; Bedford 2.
Records: Lewisburg (13-9-3); Bedford (22-0-0).