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Resilient and composed Deer Lakes stun rival Shady Side to advance to first-ever PIAA final

Resilient and composed Deer Lakes stun rival Shady Side to advance to first-ever PIAA final

PIAA Boys 2A Semifinal

Deer Lakes 2, Shady Side Academy 1

 

With lessons of its previous loss to Shady Side Academy fresh in its minds, Deer Lakes pulled through for a thrilling 2-1 win in the PIAA semifinal against its section rivals on the strength of two goals on set pieces in the final six minutes of the match.

In what was a true rubber match between two teams that know each other very well, Deer Lakes found goals from a long free kick into the box from Colton Spence and then a long-throw by Sullivan that deflected off a Shady Side defender.

“We knew what type of game it was going to be. It was going to be a battle until the final whistle,” Jordan Wiegand, Deer Lakes head coach, said. “It feels good to be on the other side of it.

For the first time in school history, Deer Lakes (21-1-1) will now advance to the PIAA Boys 2A final on Saturday, when they’ll take on District 5 champion Fleetwood at 1:30 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.

HOW IT HAPPENED

Familiarity between the two sides made for a first half where each team took jabs at each other — but nothing materialized, but eventually when matters turned more desperate in the second half, they brought out the best in each other.

Deer Lakes looked dangerous in spurts during the first half, but couldn’t sustain possession enough to really be in control of the match.

AJ Lorman kept lurking on the right side sending dangerous balls in — along with its central midfield trio of sophomores Spence, Sullivan and Ryan Rodgers generated a few dangerous chances, including forcing Shady Side keeper Bruce David into making a few saves, and saw another early first half shot hit the post.

For Shady Side, forward Max Farner got behind the Deer Lakes back line in the 34th minute for a solid chance, but was closed down quickly. Midfielders Wally Navid and Kenny Shergill provided opportunities by extending possessions, but the Indians couldn’t put one past Deer Lakes senior keeper Jesse Greyshock.

Six minutes into the second half, Navid made a run deep into the box on the right side, with two defenders closing in, still managed to place a low shot from a difficult angle underneath a diving Greyshock and into the left side of goal to give Shady Side a 1-0 lead.

Much like its previous game, Shady Side took the lead, then hoped to continue to frustrate the Lancers.

Shady Side did its usual musical chairs with its goalkeepers as well, bringing in Zach Conti in the first 18 minutes of the second half in goal for Shady Side before starting keeper Bruce David re-entered again around the 60th minute.

Conti made three saves, and David finished with 10.

Deer Lakes brought pressure forward, but were running into a wall of very organized Shady Side defenders in the box on every possession, multiple corner kicks — and numerous long throws.

Those set pieces would prove to be critical.

“They (SSA) defended the box well. Keepers were catching it clean. Especially in the first half, our players watched a lot go over head,” Wiegand said. “At the half. we challenged the guys to be better ball winners out of the air.”

In the first game between the two sides, Deer Lakes’ frustration boiled over to the point where Rodgers was sent off for yellow card accumulation.

This time, Spence picked up a yellow card around the 60th minute for a late challenge on the far sideline. Things began to look like the young Lancers squad, which starts only two seniors, would come apart again.

“We talked about it in the locker room. We knew we had to compose ourselves,” Spence said. “We knew it was going to get frustrating. We just had to work the ball around, just get it in their end and keep on pounding it into their end.”

On this night though, Deer Lakes showed composure and resilience.

“It was a different scenario than last time (Shady Side’s 1-0 win in WPIAL semifinal). Every tough game, tough loss can teach us something,” Wiegand said. “I think it was resilience and composure, is what we got out of that (previous) loss against Shady Side.

And they had to dodge a dangerous Shady Side bullet to keep it 1-0.

Shady Side found a counter opportunity after turning back Deer Lakes when Shergill delivered a through ball on the right edge of the box to Farner in stride. The senior forward only had Greyshock to beat, decided to try to send a shot over the keeper. Greyshock was quick enough to react to the ball, and deny Farner’s breakaway chance.

“If we make it there, then it’s done deal,” Ed Ellsworth, Shady Side coach said. “You can replay a hundred plays — one play here another one there, but that’s the game sometimes.”

Greyshock ended the match with seven saves.

In the closing moments, it would come down to a pair of set pieces for the Lancers.

First came a long free kick in the 74th minute from senior Nick Caro.

While there may have been some discussion about who got on the end of it, whether it was Devon Murrary or Spence who was credited with the goal — the Lancers showed how powerful they can be in the box.

“Who would have thought, And that’s what it came down to,” Wiegand said. “We really pride ourselves on set pieces. Even with long throw. We consider it. It’s the fIrst year I’ve ever had it. We’ve got guys who can go up and get it.”

Then with the momentum swung in its direction with a little more than a minute left in the match, Deer Lakes finally capitalized on long throw, something that they’ve been practicing since early in the season.

“It’s a funny story,” Sullivan said after the match. “I told coach I was going to get one from a long throw-in before the end of the year. It progressed through the year, and we kept running them like corner kicks.”

Sullivan’s throw deflected off a Shady Side Academy defender and found its way past David.

“It takes a lot of grit, and it shows what kind of team we are,” Sullivan said. “We never stop running. We were down (with) six minutes left, and we never stopped. We kept running, we kept putting a sprint in for each of our teammates, and it was great to see. I can’t wait for Hershey.”

Shady Side Academy (14-7-1), which won its second consecutive WPIAL championship earlier this month, was denied its first trip to the state finals by its section rival.

And after four matches between the two sides, set pieces proved to be the critical difference.

“They’re so huge. If there’s one area where they had us all season, it was set pieces over the four games we’ve played,” Ellsworth added. “They didn’t score on us in the run of play.”

Even after Deer Lakes took the lead with a minute left, Shady Side, who have pulled out some late game magic in winning back-to-back WPIAL titles made another late push, with the game ending in the six yard box with the Indians jumping up for a header.

“We ran out of time,” Ellsworth said. “It’s just how the game goes sometimes. I am so proud of this group, and the seniors changed the culture of soccer at Shady Side Academy to a championship culture. We’ve played in the last weekend the last three years. We’ve played in the WPIAL final the last three years. We’re the two-time champion.

It was monumental win for Deer Lakes program, but they have some unfinished business.

“We’ll enjoy it tonight,” Wiegand said. “As I’ve said all season, we haven’t really had time to dwell or reflect. We’ll prepare for Fleetwood, and we’re going to be ready for them.”

PLAYER OF THE MATCH – COLTON SPENCE

 

 

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets including Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, and more. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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