NEFFSVILLE - Mark Ashley knows the importance of being resilient all too well.
And when Lancaster Mennonite struck first Tuesday night, a curious yet optimistic Ashley was waiting to see how his Hempfield Black Knights would respond.
Let's just say Hempfield passed the exam.
Picking up two finishes from Colby Smith and one from Ashton Yoder, Hempfield churned out a 3-1 victory over Mennonite in the second of two Lancaster-Lebanon League boys' soccer tournament semifinals at Manheim Twp. High School.
Up next for Ashley's Black Knights (15-5-0) is a Thursday night date with Section 1 playmate Conestoga Valley - Hempfield and CV split two regular-season outings - in the L-L title game at Warwick High School.
CV decked Annville-Cleona in the front end of the twinbill.
While Mennonite (15-3-1) was able to connect first when Nicolas Herrerias turned Brock Rohrer's throw into a finish with 8:36 gone, Smith did not even need a minute to find the equalizer after settling Brendan Keller's service from the left flank.
One calming touch and a rip from the right wing - the game was tied.
"We talk about that all the time, that when goals are scored it's a great time to either get another goal or to regroup and focus on what you need to do," Ashley said.
"Tonight, it worked well. When they scored, we came back and took away some of that momentum and built on that."
Despite a terrific first half from Keller and solid play across the defensive backfield from Alex Pink, Jon Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Christian Benedict and Anthony Hartz, the Knights were unable to slip anything else past Nate Flanders (5 saves).
Left backs Pink and Lawrence did a good job bottling up Herrerias after he scored, as a quality duel developed on that flank.
"That was a good matchup," Ashley admitted. "We felt [Herrerias] was technical and he was tricky with the ball, but we thought if we kept good position we'd be able to defend him over there with those two guys."
Hempfield also knew where Mennonite's Ben Breisinger was at all times - Breisinger scored twice in the Blazers' quarterfinal-round victory over Warwick - with center backs Wilson and Benedict sharing primary cover.
"We actually didn't move anybody around to defend him particularly, because we didn't want to get out of our shape," Ashley said. "We feel like we have an organized shape that works for us. We knew he was dangerous and we were concerned about him. We thought about double-teaming him, but chose not to."
Even before Smith located his equalizer, Flanders was able to punch out Yoder's dangerous inswinger from the left flag. He also wrapped his mitts around a Keller header with just over 15 minutes left in the opening half.
Flanders also was able to clear a number of potentially dangerous balls that were sent his way by his defensive backs or come off his line to beat Hempfield attackers to the ball and quickly change the point of attack.
"Flanders played well," Mennonite head coach Fred Winey said. "He did a nice job, [made a] couple good stops. He's a good keeper. Unfortunately, he was out a good portion of the year with a broken finger, so it's good to see him back.
"If he can make saves like that, you can get pretty far with a good keeper."
Flanders also tacked on another quality stop early in the second half when he covered Smith's left-footed blast. Moments later, Smith popped the Black Knights in front to stay with a right-footed rip that Flanders could not get to.
Just to be able to uncork what turned out to be his game-winning pop, Smith did a good job shielding off Mennonite center back Josiah Kratz when the ball came back into the penalty area. As a result, he created enough space to turn and fire.
Mennonite was able to generate several chances later in the half, but Hempfield keeper Ryan Shiner (1 save) scrambled off his line and hit the deck to interrupt a Matthew Lynch opportunity that could have evened up the score.
While the Blazers saw another opportunity skip past the left upright, Jason Shin also authored a near-miss that glanced off the football crossbar.
By the time Shin delivered his shot, however, the Knights had grabbed a 3-1 lead on a terrific one-touch pass from Kurtis Rineer that set up Yoder's insurance score.
Flanders never had a chance.
"That third goal was a really nice goal," Winey said. "We were a bit exposed because I had gone to three backs and pushed an extra guy up to chase the game so we were just a little bit vulnerable. But they had a really nice combination that they worked. They just played really well. I wish them luck."
Hempfield 3, Lancaster Mennonite 1
Lancaster Mennonite 1-0-1
Scoring: 1. LM-Nicolas Herrerias (Brock Rohrer), 8:36; 2. H-Colby Smith (Brendan Keller), 9:35; 3. H-Smith (ua), 48:08; 4. H-Ashton Yoder (Kurtis Rineer), 68:34.
Shots: LM 4, H 9.
Corners: LM 1, H 4.
Saves: LM (Nate Flanders-5), H (Ryan Shiner-1).