READING>> The ball had smacked off the hands of Cedar Crest keeper Desiree Leffler, fluttered down and then cruelly trickled past her goal line to smash a scoreless tie in the 37th minute.
This was it, the first act of a script most expected to unfold Tuesday, in which undefeated Governor Mifflin would roll to another tidy win over a solid Falcons club in its District Three Class AAA tournament opener.
The goal instead sparked a different tale, where unbroken topped unbeaten for one of the biggest upsets in District Three girls soccer this fall.
No. 15 Cedar Crest stunned second-seeded Governor Mifflin on the road Tuesday, 2-1, and advanced to a district quarterfinal match Saturday at noon. The Falcons (11-6-3) overcame a one-goal deficit for their second straight postseason showdown, carried to victory by their grit and goals from Maddy Brown and Cece Fiorentino. Fiorentino's right-corner strike in the 54th minute put Cedar Crest ahead and the work of Leffler (8 saves), in concert with her defenders, later put the Mustangs (18-1-2) to bed for good.
"It's crazy. This group of girls has worked so hard," Fiorentino said. "Everyone works hard no matter how much time is on the clock, no matter where you are on the field. We have so much heart."
The Falcons will carry their collective heart to Penn Manor on Saturday, the neutral site for their quarterfinal clash against Conestoga Valley. The Buckskins bested Cedar Crest twice this season in section play, each time by a single goal. But if the blue and white continue with this comeback trend, a one-score deficit may not be enough to keep them down.
For after standing on the wrong sideline of history Tuesday, Governor Mifflin coach Edward Geren Jr. could point to only one reason for the Falcons' second-half surge.
"They just came out harder," Geren Jr. said. "They went at us and didn't want to end their season."
Standing with an immovable smile post-game, Cedar Crest coach Jon Brubaker incidentally agreed with his counterpart's assessment.
"(A deficit) doesn't phase the girls. Some teams get down when they give up a goal. The difference is when we give up a goal, we play that much harder, and we've been able to have two comebacks.
"They're a unified group," Brubaker continued. "We have a great group of seniors that have provided some of the best leadership that I've seen since I've been here. I'm just happy for them that they have the opportunity to win a couple big games."
That opportunity began with Brown, whose midfield free kick in the 52nd minute rocketed over the head every player but Mifflin keeper Kyra Hartman, who watched the ball promptly bounce between her legs and in for a goal. The pain of allowing such an equalizer was then doubled when Fiorentino scored on a shot that began initially as a pass.
"Ariel (Jones) gave a little pass and I tried to cross it, but it ended as a shot," Fiorentino explained. "Then (Hartman) went to get it, and it went over her fingers."
While good fortune admittedly played a role in her game-winner, the senior midfielder shared that the play also affirmed the team's strong, private belief heading into kickoff.
"We really had faith that we were going to win," Fiorentino said. "We had our heads up and were ready to go."
Cedar Crest's readiness was no more evident than over the final 20 minutes, as the Mustangs threw everything but the kitchen sink at Leffler. Making saves high, low, near and far, the freshman goalie, in addition to a senior-laden back line, was there to preserve the Falcons' lead at every stop. That piece of Tuesday's stunner was of no surprise to her coach.
"Desiree's been fantastic. She's been everything we've wanted her to be and more," Brubaker said. "We've been shocked at her composure in goal, ability to make low-hand saves and she made a couple big ones today."
A couple of big saves for the biggest win in recent program history. Not bad for a back-up keeper playing solely due to injury and a team still playing only because it believed it should be, contrary to what anyone or any scoreboard would say otherwise.
Cedar Crest 2, Governor Mifflin 1
CC 0 2 — 2 GM 1 0 — 0
First half — 1. GM, Kamryn Bobb (unassisted), 37:00.
Second half — 2. CC, Maddy Brown (unassisted), 52:00. 3. CC, Cece Fiorentino (Ariel Jones), 54:00.
Shots on goal — CC 8, GM 16
Corners — CC 5, GM 9
Saves — CC: Desiree Leffler (8 saves), GM: Kyra Hartman (2)