Lancers ready for 2nd PIAA title game appearance after missing out in 2018

Thursday, November 19, 2020 | 6:51 PM

Making a trip to Hersheypark Stadium on a weekend in mid-November can leave a lasting impact on any high school team.

It can give players a sense of satisfaction after getting a PIAA gold medal placed around their neck or a sense of disappointment after losing on the biggest stage. But, for some, it can give a team that extra sense of determination or motivation that it needs to return in the future.

After losing to Fleetwood, 1-0, in the PIAA Class 2A title game two years ago, the Deer Lakes boys soccer team gained the latter.

As sophomores, the current Deer Lakes seniors left Hersheypark Stadium with a goal to get back there one day. They knew, with two years of high school left, they had unfinished business to complete.

“We were young as a team, so we didn’t really expect to get that far. Our goal was to just get past the quarterfinals, and we ended up playing our way into a state championship game,” senior Devin Murray said. “That was definitely an experience, and it helped lead us to where we are now.”

On Saturday, the Lancers will return to Hershey to take on District 4 champion Lewisburg at 1:30 p.m.

Since that 2018 season, the Deer lakes seniors have embraced a new group of Lancers and created a new standard at Deer Lakes.

They captured the program’s first WPIAL title this season over Shady Side Academy in a match decided by penalty kicks, won three section championships and have put their stamp on a program that’s meant so much to them.

“When we started it in 2018, we had a big talk about what a family atmosphere should be like, and I think these past two years have completely grown that,” senior Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve built upon what we had in 2018 and 2019, which has led us here.”

That motivation and family-like atmosphere that the senior class started to create in 2018 has allowed the program to improve under second-year coach Dan Yates.

“When you look at Sully (Mike Sullivan), Dev (Devin Murray) and (Colton) Spence, they’ve played soccer together for years,” Yates said. “Then you have the sophomore group, and they have all played together for years, too. They all understand the motivation of winning is massive, especially in high school.”

“Having that core group of 15 players who have played together in some respect over the years is massive for a program, and we have that coming through the ranks as well with the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.”

After that run in 2018, the Lancers coaching job opened when Jordan Wiegand took a position at Pine-Richland. Even since then, the Manchester, England, native has helped the Lancers reach new heights.

Under Yates, Deer Lakes has gone 34-7, made WPIAL championship appearances the past two years and made a run to at least the PIAA quarterfinals twice as well as this year’s state championship appearance.

But despite the success, one of the biggest things that Yates noticed when he took over the program was how motivated his team was.

“They’ve stepped it up a notch, and it has become even more intense this year because they had unfinished business in terms of a WPIAL championship and states,” Yates said. “All I can ask for now is that they go out and leave it all out on the field on Saturday. This is their last chance, for the seniors, to play at the state level in high school.”

The Lancers have accomplished their goal of getting back to Hershey. After beating Fairview in a snowstorm Tuesday, Deer Lakes is excited for another crack at a PIAA title and feeling fairly confident.

“I mean, you can’t be going into a state championship after winning the last seven playoff games and not feel confident,” Sullivan said. “No matter who we are going up against on Saturday, I have faith in these boys and I have faith in the system that we play that we’ll be able to pull out a result.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


More High School Soccer Boys

Championship WPIAL soccer coach to follow father into A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame
Nick White approved as Franklin Regional boys soccer coach
PIAA discussing eliminating overtime in regular-season soccer games
The Kiski School builds on success, wins 4th straight PAISAA championship
Norwin’s Owen Christopher headlines 2023 Trib HSSN boys soccer all-stars