Sullivan plays hero again, propels Deer Lakes into PIAA quarterfinals with overtime goal

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019 | 9:17 PM


Throughout their PIAA first-round matchup with District 6 champion Juniata on Tuesday, the Deer Lakes boys soccer team came within inches of scoring the go-ahead goal.

Mike Sullivan hit both goalposts and the crossbar at one point. Ryan Rodgers pushed two shots wide with open space in front of him, and, at one point, Devin Murray came within inches of a Sullivan cross in the final 12 minutes of regulation that would’ve put the game away.

“It was just like our North Catholic game for us,” Deer Lakes coach Dan Yates said. “Their goalkeeper had an absolute world of a game and he pulled off save after save in the first half. We hit posts. We missed one-on-ones, putting it wide of the goal, and we just felt it was inevitable we were going to score.”

Like they did in their second-round WPIAL playoff game against North Catholic and like they did on this stage last year, the Lancers persevered in overtime to escape the first round of the state tournament with a 1-0 victory.

Murray recovered a loose ball in Juniata’s defensive half and freed up Sullivan with a beautiful through ball in the box. Just like he has throughout the playoffs, Sullivan buried it into the back of the net to secure the Lancers a trip to the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.

“Everyone steps up, it’s not just me, the entire team steps up,” Sullivan said. “Devin Murray, who had an absolute insane ball to play me through, stepped up and I found the back of the net and we’re moving on.”

Throughout the game, the Lancers dominated the possession of play. They passed around and built a shot advantage of 20-8 by the time Sullivan found the back of the net in double overtime. But, while the Lancers created opportunities throughout the night, Juniata countered when they made mistakes.

The District 6 champs created several opportunities, and, at one point, Deer Lakes center back Colton Spence had to clear a ball off the line and freshman goal keeper Nick Braun made several big saves that kept the Lancers in the game.

“We had to roll our look at times because they probably should’ve scored in overtime and towards the end of the game as well,” Yates said. “It’s just one of them things that happens in games. They are a very well-drilled team and they have assets up top and they used them to their potential. Now. we know we have to be a little smarter coming into the next one.”

Braun especially played big on Tuesday night, the freshman keeper tallied five saves on the night but each one was big. One of the biggest came midway through the first half when Juniata was awarded a free kick outside the 18-yard box. Braun made the save on the free kick, then stepped up to make another save on a rebound.

“He keeps pulling save, after save, after save,” Yates said. “He’s starting to come out of his box more and he’s starting to not look like a freshman anymore, he looks like a varsity keeper back there already, which is gonna be great for us down the line. Four years down the line, he’s going to be an absolute beast.”

With their win, the Lancers are set to advance to the PIAA quarterfinals for a second year in a row and will play on Saturday against Mercyhurst Prep at a site and time to be determined. The District 10 champion bested Shady Side Academy 2-1 on Tuesday at the Hagerty Family Events Center in Erie.

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

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