It was the lingering effects of the injury-depleted Mustangs' 1-0 double-overtime loss to plenty-tough Dallastown on Tuesday, however, that played into Thursday's 3-0 loss to Central York at South Western.
Still, none of the Mustangs were pulling the excuse card.
"Today, I felt like we were beating ourselves," said Erin Laird, the King's College-bound senior forward who carved defenders off the dribble, but couldn't get a clean look at the goal. "The Dallastown game got to us a bit, but we need to perform better as a team. We need to focus on winning out next week. It is simply a matter of bouncing back, playing as a functional unit and working the ball better than we did."
Tending to some fresh wounds following the Dallastown dogfight, the Mustangs were engaged in another physical game, coupled with loose officiating that enabled both teams to tussle for possession.
Central York, rebounding from a loss against Red Lion, executed fluid ball movement in its read-and-react offense that head coach Liz Critchfield preaches. The Mustangs were outshot by a 15-7 margin. Despite a considerable bulge in free kicks (10-4) and a slight edge in corner kicks (5-3), the Mustangs couldn't permeate Central York's shoulder-to-shoulder defense, which hiked up in physicality during the second half.
In each and every one of Central York's losses this season, Critchfield has cited a fragile psyche as the primary killer.
Not on Thursday.
With 8:26 remaining in the first half, Central York's Sam Sweeney drilled an unassisted shot from 15 yards out, escaping the grasp of diving goalkeeper Laken Bull. The Panthers padded the lead with 15:52 remaining in the second half, as sophomore Sarah McGlaughlin rifled in a deep straightaway shot.
"We know we had to get this win," Critchfield said. "The loss to Red Lion was a tough one. Our passing game was what really allowed us to capitalize on our possessions. Having played South Western before, we know they're a very good team, very physical, very quick, so we had to get those passes off fast. I kept telling the girls, 'Touch and pass. Touch and pass.'"
The consistent pinpoint passing and dominance of possession overwhelmed South Western, which did receive an eye-popping recovery stop from Nicolette Bonagura with 22:55 remaining. The stop stifled a promising transition leak-out.
With 7:03 remaining, Central sophomore Kelly Williamson deposited a rebound into the right pocket of the goal. Williamson capitalized on a wild sequence, one which opened with a point-blank save by South Western's Carlie Suarez. South Western coach Mark Bentzel thought his team turned in an inefficient account of itself.
"We had a spurt of activity, but I felt we weren't on our game today," Bentzel said. "It's tough when you play your heart out against Dallastown and you have to recuperate. It's an unfortunate loss because we were the only team in this league to take Dallastown to double overtime. No offense to Central. They stepped to the ball today. We didn't."
Adding salt to the wound is that senior netminder Haley Briggs (broken leg), Kristen Garland (ACL) and Julie O'Conner (concussion) are out for the season. Garland went under the knife last week. Briggs, who sustained the injury when a teammate slid into her following a play, is expected to be off crutches in a few weeks. She's slated to heal before her freshman season at Juniata College.
"In my eyes, the biggest issue is team unity," said Briggs, the Mustangs' senior captain and emotional leader. "We were playing individually and not for each other today. Whenever you get down on yourselves, it becomes an issue. We've got to pick each other up and dust ourselves off. When we play together, we're at our best. Nothing will work unless we do."
After going eyeball to eyeball with Dallastown, which has vaulted into the top of the York-Adams Division I heap, Laird feels her team can run the table.
She said, "We've got four games next week. We'll be up against William Penn, Spring Grove and Hershey. We have to look at those as winnable games and see if we can win out the remainder of the schedule."
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CENTRAL 3, SO. WESTERN 0
Central -- 1 2-- 3
So. Western -- 0 0 -- 0
First Half -- 1. CY, Sam Sweeney, 8:26.
Second Half -- 2. CY, Sarah McLaughlin, 15:57; 3. CY, Kelly Williamson, 7:03
Shots On Goal -- CY 15, SW 7.
Corners -- CY 3, SW 5.
Goalies -- CY, Alex Wright (5 saves); SW, Laken Bull (9 saves), Carlie Suarez (6 saves).
JV Score -- Central York 3, South Western 0.