One of the most exciting times of the YAIAA sports seasons is when the league playoffs come around. That time is now for field hockey, girls soccer and boys soccer, setting up a 'Title Thursday' featuring three league championship games.
Because it features four teams instead of eight, the field hockey playoffs starts a few days later than soccer. The two semifinals will take place Wednesday at York Suburban, and the championship will be Thursday at Northeastern. Both semifinals provide plenty of storylines to keep an eye on.
Dallastown vs. Gettysburg, 5:30: Where do we even start with this one? For years, the Wildcats had built a dynasty by dominating their YAIAA competition until last year when the new kids on the block - Gettysburg - came in and shocked Dallastown, 3-0, in the YAIAA semifinals. The Wildcats, who have mentioned Gettysburg in postgame interviews several times this season, would love to erase the memories of that devastating loss, but the Warriors may not be ready to give up their top spot. Gettysburg went 18-0 and gave up just eight goals all season. Expect a great game between the league's top two squads.
New Oxford vs. Bermudian Springs, 7:00: The Eagles have reached this point in three of the last four seasons, but haven't made it to the league championship game in any of those trips. Led by Mackenzie Farley and Nicki Wolf, the Eagles won 15 games and cruised to their ninth-consecutive division title. The question is can they get by New Oxford and set up a rematch with either Dallastown or Gettysburg?
The upstart Colonials leapfrogged Red Lion and Central York, who were both expected to compete for that second Division I playoff slot. Led by junior Kaelyn Long, whose stick-handling skills help New Oxford control the midfield, and the speedy Braxtin Reddinger on the outside, the Colonials have turned some heads this season. They were the only team in the league to beat Dallastown.
For either of these two Adams County squads, reaching the title game would be an impressive accomplishment.
Dover vs. Dallastown, 7:30 at Susquehannock: Neither of these teams are strangers to the YAIAA title game spotlight. One of them has been in each of the last seven title games, but will square off for the first time.
Dover managed to stop the red-hot Central York Panthers Tuesday, 1-0, and Dallastown went to overtime with Northeastern, but came away with a 3-2 win.
These two squads are loaded with talent. Dover's Brooke Firestone reached the 100 career goal plateau this season, while Dallastown's defense (Ali Shick, Sierra Austin, Natalie Gettle and Lyndee Anders) shut out 10 division opponents in a row at one point.
The Eagles' defense was among the best in the league as well, surrendering just nine goals in league play.
Expect a low-scoring battle on Thursday.
Central York vs. Gettysburg, 5:30, at Susquehannock: Can the Panthers make it three league titles in a row? Central will take on Gettysburg, who they defeated 2-1 in last year's YAIAA semifinals. The Warriors went undefeated and gave up just five goals all season. The only goal they surrendered after Sept. 15 was an own goal to Biglerville in Tuesday's semifinals.
Central's only loss came Sept. 5 against Lower Dauphin. Since then, the Panthers have been on fire.
Neither team was threatened in the semifinals as both teams led their respective opponents early.
These two squads have been on a collision course all season and soccer fans finally get to see them square off Thursday. Expect Igor Gomes, who scored a hat trick for Central Tuesday, and Matt Yingling, who scored twice and added an assist for the Warriors, to provide a few highlight-worthy plays.