Hailey Longwell’s hat trick lifts Moon past Plum, sets up rematch with Mars

Saturday, November 12, 2022 | 5:39 PM

In rainy and chilly conditions at Peters Township, Moon put a damper on Plum’s attempt to unseat the undefeated Tigers in a PIAA Class 3A girls soccer quarterfinal Saturday afternoon.

Moon, the WPIAL champion, broke a halftime tie on a trio of goals from senior midfielder Hailey Longwell and closed out a 4-1 victory.

“At the end of the day, I want to try to find any way I can help my team win games,” Longwell said. “Today, my teammates found me across the front line, and I was able to finish. It was great to be out there with them and get a really nice win.”

Saturday’s game was a rematch of a 3-0 Moon victory in the WPIAL semifinals. Now the Tigers have another rematch in front of them.

Moon (22-0) will face Mars on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined with a trip to the state title game in Mechanicsburg on the line.

The Tigers beat the Planets, 1-0, in the WPIAL final.

Mars shut out District 3 champion Lower Dauphin, 2-0, on Saturday.

“This is something a lot of teams dream of, having a shot to win a state title,” Longwell said. “You never know when an opportunity like this will come around again. We just try to take advantage of it. We’re excited to still be playing.”

Plum, the third-place team from the WPIAL, concluded its season at 18-3 overall. It finished in the state playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons.

The Mustangs (18-3) surrendered just 17 goals in 21 games. Moon scored seven of the 17.

“I wanted to make sure the girls know how proud I was of them, how proud everyone was,” said Plum coach Jamie Stewart, tears welling up in his eyes as his voice wavered. “We gave up two set-piece goals, something we knew Moon was really good at. The girls played well, but Moon was better today.”

Plum got on the board first. And quickly. Senior Cam Rogers scored just 3 minutes, 12 seconds into the game, taking control of a looping ball at about 25 yards sent in by fellow senior Kaitlyn Killinger.

Rogers scooped the ball over Moon keeper Serayah Leech, who had come off her line to challenge Rogers’ run.

“The girls responded well to that goal,” Moon coach Bill Pfeiffer said. “They realized there was still a lot of time left, and they didn’t panic. We knew we would get our share of chances. These girls have been here before, and they know what it’s all about.”

Said Stewart: “That was something we wanted to focus on for this game as opposed to what happened (in the WPIAL playoffs). We thought we could attack them differently. Getting that goal felt really good. It was a nice play.”

It was the first goal scored against Moon since a 3-1 win over Butler on Sept. 9. The Tigers had posted 18 straight shutouts.

Moon came back with pressure and generated a couple of dangerous scoring chances before tying the score with just over 10 minutes left in the first half on a play generated by a corner kick from senior Tessa Romah.

The ball found its way in front of the Plum goal, where a grouping of Plum and Moon players had set up. Senior striker Sydney Felton was there to take control of the ball and push it past sophomore keeper Makenna Anderson for the score.

Moon came out after halftime and picked up a couple of dangerous chances in the opening minutes.

Two shots on goal against Plum freshman keeper Malayna Smith were turned away as the Tigers had four shots overall during the opening flurry.

Moon maintained possession deep in Plum territory and broke through with what turned out to be the winner with 21:49 to play. Longwell set up in front of the net, corralled a corner kick from Romah and put it past Smith.

She tallied her second about four minutes later to make it 3-1, and the Tigers were on their way.

Longwell was right there for Moon’s fourth goal with six minutes remaining to put the cherry on top of a dominant second half.

Plum was held without a shot in the second half until there were 15 minutes to go. Killinger unleashed an attempt from about 25 yards that was hauled in by Leech.

Leech made three saves on four Plum shots on goal. Moon fired off 12 shots on goal, and Smith and Anderson combined for eight saves.

“The girls are excited to keep playing,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s not the same team as last year when we won (the PIAA Class 4A title). It’s a new experience for some of the kids with new goals and expectations. But the desire to win and be a champion never changes.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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