Valiant Central runs out of time in 2OT
By Tom Reisenweber
For the Mirror
ERIE — The confidence was building throughout the match for Central.
The longer the Lady Scarlet Dragons kept Mercyhurst Prep off the scoreboard, the more they believed they could pull off the upset.
Central just ran out of steam in the second overtime.
With six minutes left before a penalty kick shootout, Ashley Michaels centered a perfect pass to Kaitlyn Kneidinger, who gave Mercyhurst Prep a 1-0 win over Central in a PIAA girls soccer first-round match on Tuesday at Dollinger Field.
“We held them off for 104 minutes,” Central senior Meghan Flaugh said. “We played our hearts out and left everything out there. We just couldn’t get one in at the end of the day, which is what counts.”
Mercyhurst Prep (17-4-2) moves on to the PIAA quarterfinals on Saturday, while Central ends the season at 17-4-1.
Mercyhurst Prep reached Hershey last season through a strong defense and quick-strike offense. The Lady Dragons traveled more than three hours to Erie on Tuesday looking to end the Lakers’ run of close playoff wins.
“You can see why they were in Hershey last year,” Central coach Brian Campbell said. “They move the ball well and support each other. That’s a great team.”
The Lady Dragons hung with the Lakers throughout regulation, but they struggled to get a shot on goal. Kristen Laird fired a rocket shot off a set piece toward the net, but Mercyhurst Prep freshman Ashely Van Damia made a rare save.
Mercyhurst Prep turned up the pressure in the first overtime as the temperature continued to drop, but the Central defense hung tough for 15 minutes.
“They were on the attack a lot in the first overtime, and you could see their confidence building,” Campbell said. “I think the last five minutes before they scored they were really building their attack and had us on our heels.”
The Lakers finally broke through in the second overtime, their third overtime win in the postseason.
“I don’t know, I guess I was at the right place at the right time,” said Kneidinger, who also scored in overtime in the D-10 quarterfinals a few weeks ago and scored in overtime in the PIAA semifinals last fall. “We didn’t want to go to Pks, and this was pretty intense. Central really played us hard.”
For the Dragons, pushing Mercyhurst Prep to double overtime was about proving something after a long road trip.
“Everyone kept telling us we were going to lose like 6-0,” Flaugh said. “We kept pushing and pushing with something to prove. This was another great year as a senior, and we just played our hearts out and left everything on the field.”
Central’s senior class leaves a terrific legacy after turning the program around. As freshmen, they came to Central after the Dragons won one game the year before. They won 12 games right away before winning at least 17 games each of the past three seasons.
“This is a great senior class, and we owe the program to them,” Campbell said. “They came in as freshmen off a one-win season and started turning the program around. They put in the time, pushed each other and took the underclassmen under their wins. They are a coach’s dream, and we owe them everything.”
SCORE BY HALVES
Central 0 0 0 0 — 0
Mercyhurst Prep 0 0 0 1 — 1
2OT: MP – Kneidinger (Michaels), 6:00
Records: Mercyhurst Prep 17-4-2; Central 17-4-1