DANVILLE — Tuesday night was nothing short of routine for the Lake-Lehman girls soccer team: Mackenzie Love, hat trick. Amanda Ayers, three assists.
Unfortunately, common thread at Lake-Lehman for the past four years — through two district championships, a PIAA semifinal appearance run, and two Wyoming Valley Conference titles — finally ran its course.
Not even a pair of 100-goal scorers could outdo a Midd-West team in a 4-3 loss Tuesday evening in the PIAA Class 2A first round girls soccer playoffs. The Mustangs advance to face St. Basil Academy, whom Lake-Lehman beat in last year’s playoffs, in the quarterfinal round.
“Obviously, it’s a huge disappointment,” Lake-Lehman head coach Kelly Adamshick said. “They’re a great team. Not really sure how this bracket works. You have two of the top four teams in the state going head-to-head in the first game. It is what it is. We played hard but not enough.”
Just before kickoff, another piece of bad news was brought upon on the Lake-Lehman girls soccer team. They were going to have to play without long sleeves. In 33-degree temperatures. In freezing rain.
Even through the foggy press box windows from across the field, the agitated look on the Lake-Lehman girls’ faces could be seen.
The uniform violation — their undershirts did not match their gold jerseys — was just another hurdle for two-time defending District 2 champion Black Knights. Lake-Lehman came back from a one-goal halftime deficit to take a lead in a matter of 46 seconds.
Trailing 2-1 at the break, Lake-Lehman pressured the District 4 champions at the start of the second half. In the 44th minute, Ayers sent a ball in for Love with an open lane in the box. Lake-Lehman pulled the Midd-West defenders to the sides, and Love awarded them by ripping a short to the left corner of goal.
Forty-six seconds later, Love supplied the Black Knights a 3-2 lead with her third goal of the match. Ayers caused a turnover in the midfield, countering with a ball played past the Midd-West center-back that did not see the ball. Love finished the breakaway with her 50th goal of the season.
“We started the second half really fast,” Adamshick said. “It’s what we talked about at half. A couple of stupid mistakes here and there cost us the game tonight.”
But just like that, Midd-West’s tandem of their own in Penn State commit Kelly Beiler and Alyssa Keister responded by showing why they have been one of the most dangerous small-school threats in the state for the past three years. Beiler delivered a ball to Keister, who broke through a pair of tackles before finding the back of the net in the 47th minute.
Ten minutes later, the pair took advantage of a miscue by a Lake-Lehman reserve goalkeeper put into a position of having to stop the fourth-ranked team in the state. Seconds earlier, Lake-Lehman netminder Emma Stroud made a save on a point-blank Keiser shot but was injured when diving after the ball to retain position.
Stephanie Ayers substituted for Stroud, and almost instantly faced a Mustangs’ attack. Beiler lofted a ball into the box and caught Stephanie Ayers out too far. Keister maneuvered around the keeper and scored the game-winning shot that ricocheted off a Lake-Lehman defender at the line and into the goal.
After giving up a fifth-minute goal, Lake-Lehman tallied its first strike when Amanda Ayers perfected a brilliant give-and-go chance that allowed Love to travel across the box and lift a shot over the keeper’s head.
“It’s been a long time since Lake-Lehman soccer has been in this situation and have this type of a team back on the team,” Adamshick said. “Even what (Love and Amanda Ayers) accomplished individually on their own, both scoring 100 goals for their careers, is impressive. They’re two great kids that are going to do great things.”
PIAA Girls Soccer
Class 2A First Round
Midd-West 4, Lake-Lehman 3
First half — 1. MW, Kelli Beiler, 5th minute; 2. LL, Mackenzie Love (Amanda Ayers), 17th; 3. MW, Alyssa Keister (Reagan Hornberger), 22nd. Second half — 4. LL, Love (A. Ayers), 44th; 5. LL, Love (A. Ayers), 45th; 6. MW, Keiser (Beiler), 47th; 7. MW, Keister (Beiler), 57th
Shots — LL 7; MW 12. Saves — LL 6 (Emma Stroud 6, Stephanie Ayers 0); MW 3 (Carli Marshall). Corner kicks — LL 1; MW 3.