PIAA soccer championships preview: Saturday’s games

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Friday, November 20, 2020 | 3:49 PM


Boys

Class 4A

Seneca Valley (16-1-1) vs. Neshaminy (13-1-2)

6:30 p.m. Saturday, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey

Coaches: George Williams, Seneca Valley; Tom Foley, Neshaminy

State titles: Seneca Valley 0 (second appearance); Neshaminy 3 (1982, 1984, 1994)

How they got here: Seneca Valley defeated State College, 6-0, and Cumberland Valley, 1-0; Neshaminy defeated Emmaus, 2-1 in overtime.

Corner kicks

• Seneca Valley’s only other PIAA title game appearance was five years ago when the Raiders lost to Central Bucks East in the 2015 Class AAA finals.

• This is the Raiders’ fourth state playoff run in the last 10 years. They reached the finals in 2015, they lost 1-0 to North Allegheny in the quarterfinals in 2016, and they were shut out by Radnor in the 2018 semifinals.

• Seneca Valley sophomore Beaux Lizewski registered a hat trick, including game winner in double overtime, in a WPIAL title game win over Peters Township. Senior Zach LaValle led the way with two goals in the PIAA quarterfinals win over State College, while junior Nathan Prex scored the semifinal match’s only goal in a 1-0 win for the Raiders over Cumberland Valley.

• Not only has it been five years since Seneca Valley played in the PIAA title match, that was the last time a WPIAL team reached the finals in boys soccer’s highest classification. Peters Township winning gold in the 2014 AAA finals was the last victory for District 7 in the boys’ top class.

• Raiders veteran coach George Williams enters the title match with 304 wins. Victory No. 300 came in a 1-0 shutout of rival Butler in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

• The only blemishes on the Seneca Valley record came in back-to-back Section 1-4A matches: a 1-1 tie with North Allegheny on Sept. 22 and a 2-1 loss to Butler two days later. Since then, they have won 13 in a row.

• This is the first PIAA title match for Neshaminy in 26 years. They tied Bethel Park, 1-1, and were declared co-champions in 1996. This was before the state used penalty kicks to break ties after overtime.

• Ten years prior to that, Neshaminy won its second PIAA boys soccer championship when it blanked Lower Merion, 1-0, to capture the 1986 Class AAA state crown. The school’s first championship came two years earlier when Neshaminy defeated Fleetwood, 2-1, to win 1982 gold.

• This is a bit of a surprising run for Neshaminy. It was the No. 7 seed in the District 1 tournament. However, a slew of surprises saw the team beat No. 10 Great Valley, No. 15 Pennsbury, No. 6 North Penn and finally, No. 12 Pennridge in the district finals.

• After a quarterfinals bye, Neshaminy edged Emmaus in overtime to advance. Freshman A.J. Rivera tied the game with a little over 15 minutes left in the second half, and junior Connor Steele drilled home the game winner, the first goal of his career.

Class AA

Deer Lakes (17-1) vs. Lewisburg (21-0)

1:30 p.m. Saturday, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey

Coaches: Dan Yates, Deer Lakes; Ben Kettlewell, Lewisburg

State titles: Deer Lakes 0; Lewisburg, 3 (2000, 2015, 2016)

How they got here: Deer Lakes defeated Karns City, 2-0, and Fairview, 3-0; Lewisburg defeated Notre Dame Green Pond, 4-0, and Oley Valley, 2-0.

Corner kicks

• The Lancers are looking to win their first state title. They made their first state championship appearance in 2018 and lost to Fleetwood, 1-0.

• They have outscored opponents 22-2 in the postseason.

• Sophomore goalie Nick Braun and the Lancers defense have recorded four shutouts in the postseason and nine overall.

• The Lancers also won the first WPIAL title in school history this season, defeating Shady Side Academy in a penalty kick shootout.

• The Green Dragons are searching for their fourth state title and are looking to complete a perfect season.

• They have outscored opponents 151-6 and have recorded 15 shutouts.

• Four players have scored double-digit goals for the Green Dragons. Senior Anthony Bhangdia leads the team with 35 goals and 13 assists. Senior Ben Liscum is right behind with 34 goals and 29 assists.

• No team has scored more than a goal on Lewisburg this season, and junior goalie Tony Burns has made 36 saves on 41 shots on goal.

Girls

Class 4A

North Allegheny (13-2) vs. Pennridge (15-0)

4 p.m. Saturday, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey

Coaches: Chuck Kelley, North Allegheny; Audrey Anderson, Pennridge

State titles: North Allegheny 0 (first appearance); Pennridge 0 (third appearance)

How they got here: North Allegheny defeated McDowell, 5-1, and Cumberland Valley, 1-0; Pennridge defeated Parkland, 4-3 in overtime.

Corner kicks

While this is the first PIAA finals appearance for the North Allegheny girls program, the boys have played in four state title matches. The last one was 20 years ago and was the Tigers lone state soccer championship, a 1-0 win over Emmaus. NA boys lost in the state finals in 1975 (1-0 to Bethlehem Liberty), in 1996 (6-0 to Strath Haven) and in 1999 (4-2 to Downingtown).

• This is the fourth time the Tigers qualified for the PIAA girls soccer playoffs in the last 10 years. NA lost in the state quarterfinals in 2019 to Boyertown, 3-2, in 2017 to Norwin, 4-0, and in 2011 to Upper St. Clair, 2-1.

• North Allegheny had only one shutout in nine regular season matches but has blanked four of its six postseason foes, allowing only one goal in four WPIAL matches and one goal in two PIAA contests.

• Senior Sarah Schupansky scored the match’s only goal with 22 minutes left in regulation for North Allegheny in their state semifinal win over Cumberland Valley.

• Schupansky, a Pitt recruit who leads the team with 24 goals, has teamed with sophomore Lucia Wells to pace North Allegheny in the postseason with 12 of the Tigers’ 14 goals. Schupansky has eight playoff goals while Wells has scored four times, including the golden goal in overtime of NA’s 2-1 win over Butler in the WPIAL 4A title match.

• The Tigers have won nine straight since a 2-1 loss to Fox Chapel on Sept. 29. That loss came six days after the only Section 1-4A blemish on the NA schedule, a 2-1 loss to Butler.

• Pennridge is searching for the program’s first girls soccer title after a pair of championship match losses. Two years ago, the Rams lost to fellow District 1 foe Souderton, 1-0 in overtime of the 2018 4A finals. Seven years prior, Pennridge lost to Peters Township in the 2011 Class AAA title match, 1-0.

• The Rams were the No. 3 seed in the 2020 District 1 playoffs and picked up four victories on their way to a second straight district crown. They outscored their opponents in those four wins, 14-2.

• Freshman Liv Grenda scored two goals for Pennridge in the Rams’ state semifinal win over Parkland, including the game winner in overtime. Senior Lindsey DeHaven scored the first goal for Pennridge while senior Cady McKean scored the game-tying goal with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.

• Talk about getting defensive. The three goals allowed by Pennridge to Parkland was the first time the Rams allowed more than two goals in a game since a match in 2017.

Class 2A

North Catholic (15-2-1) vs. Bloomsburg (22-1)

11 a.m. Saturday, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey

Coaches: Emily Karr, North Catholic; Aaron Flook, Bloomsburg

State titles: North Catholic 0 (first appearance); Bloomsburg 0 (first appearance)

How they got here: North Catholic defeated Clearfield, 5-2, and Bedford, 2-0; Bloomsburg defeated Lake Lehman, 4-0, Wyomissing, 1-0, and Allentown Central Catholic, 1-0.

Corner kicks

• North Catholic won back-to-back WPIAL championships and is now playing in its first PIAA title match. Last year, the Trojans reached the PIAA semifinals before losing to Villa Maria Academy, 4-2.

• The Trojans have only allowed eight goals all season and have 12 shutouts. North Catholic’s two losses came to Pine-Richland and Oakland Catholic, two higher classification schools.

• Thus far in the state playoffs, Trojans junior Jayden Sharpless has four goals, including a hat trick in the quarterfinal win over Clearfield. Senior Tori Michalski has two goals, one in each state playoff win.

• North Catholic is trying to become the first WPIAL team to win a PIAA girls Class 2A championship since Central Valley won state gold in 2013.

• Bloomsburg captured the District 4 championship with a convincing 6-0 win over Montoursville.

• Like North Catholic, Bloomsburg has only allowed eight goals all season and has 15 shutouts, including seven in a row. The Panthers have outscored their opponents in three District 4 and three PIAA postseason matches, 15-0.

• District 4 teams have done well when they reach the PIAA soccer finals to the tune of a combined 12-4 record all-time.

• Senior Paige Temple has dominated for Bloomsburg with 41 goals and 23 assists. Senior Kelsey Widom and freshman Ava Billmeyer also have double digit goals.

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