Late rally lifts Allentown Central Catholic past Avonworth in PIAA Class 2A girls soccer final

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Friday, November 19, 2021 | 1:55 PM


HERSHEY — The Avonworth girls soccer team was three minutes away from finishing off its first PIAA championship victory in its first appearance in Hershey.

But Allentown Central Catholic scored two goals a minute apart in blustery and windy conditions as time wound down to rally for 2-1 victory and sink the Antelopes’ hopes for gold in the Class 2A state title game.

“The girls battled,” Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan said. “The wind was a huge factor. We got one in the first half with the wind, and they got two in the second half with the wind. We saw, knowing this team, that they worked hard all the way to the end. That (first) one that squirted through to the back, the girl was there. Sometimes you get a lucky bounce. They were opportunistic in their spots.

“But I can’t be anything but proud of our girls. They did tremendous all year long. To be standing here (in Hershey) at the end of the day is fantastic.”

Senior Ava Wert gave Avonworth a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes, 9 seconds into the game.

She cleaned up a loose ball that deflected off the cross bar after Allentown C.C. sophomore goalkeeper Armani Brickhouse turned away an initial Antelopes shot attempt.

Avonworth (19-4-1) held ACC to just one shot on goal in the first half and fired off four of its own.

Trailing by that one goal as the second half progressed, Allentown C.C. move several players up to keep possession in Avonworth’s end, especially as Antelopes goalkeeper Maggie Pappas fought the wind on several clearing kicks.

The Avonworth defense turned away a number of scoring rushes, and several Vikettes free kicks sailed high and wide of the net or were hauled in by Pappas.

But junior Madalyn Szoke made an opportunity count with 2:43 left to tie the game.

Sophomore Sammy Roth then stunned the Avonworth faithful with the game-winner just 1:02 later.

The Antelopes tried to mount a rush, but the Vikettes defense held strong.

Allentown C.C., also playing in its first PIAA final, capped its season at 17-3-3.

“In the (state) quarterfinals and semis, we had to come from behind in both of those games,” Allentown C.C. coach Rob Spatzer said. “Having been through that, the girls just don’t give up. We told them that it was going to be an 80-minute game, and we had to play whistle to whistle.

“We took a calculated gamble (with the wind). We won the toss and elected to go against the wind to start. We felt that if we could keep it close, that we would have an advantage in the second half.

“This (state title) was the goal that these girls set. They got to the state semis last year and came up one goal short. Our senior group said that this year, we got to get back there. They were just highly motivated all season long.”

Allentown C.C. finished with a 6-4 advantage in shots on goal. Pappas made four saves, and Brickhouse stopped three for the Vikettes.

“I know the girls are sad now, and would we have liked to have won? Yes,” Mahan said.

“But after today, when this settles a little bit more, we can definitely look back and say, ‘Wow, we’ve accomplished a ton this year.’ I am super proud of them and for all the stories they will get to tell.”

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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