Boys' soccer: Lancaster Mennonite defeats Fleetwood in PKs to advance to district finals
HERSHEY - A watched-pot never boils; a watched soccer match suddenly boils over.
After a tedious first half versus the stout Fleetwood defense, goalkeeper Nate Flanders and the rest of the Lancaster Mennonite Blazers took the second-seeded Tigers through a pair scoreless overtimes before winning on penalty kicks, 0-0 (4-2 PK), advancing them to Thursday's District 3 AA final.
There, the third-seeded Blazers (18-3-1) will face top-seeded Gettysburg (21-0), a 3-0 winner over Susquehannock, at 7:30 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.
"It's a great opportunity to get another crack at the district title," said Blazers' head coach Fred Winey, also referencing the fact the Blazers clinched a spot in the state tournament with the win. "I'm really proud of these guys that they've been able to get themselves in this position because it's not easy in our district, there are a lot of really good teams and it hasn't been an easy journey."
Meanwhile, Monday's battle at Hershey was a rematch of the 2014 semifinal won by Fleetwood (18-3) in a game that also went to penalty kicks, won by the Tigers 5 to 4.
But all four Mennonite strikers - Ben Breisinger, Brock Rohrer, Ben Coryell, and Chase Ross - were true on their attempt Monday night while Flanders stopped one Fleetwood shot and watched another sail over the crossbar.
"I kind of just read him," Flanders said on stopping the shot by Fleetwood's Greg Kambakis in penalties. "Waited patiently to see where he was going to go and just reacted to it. Thankfully I was right, he went down the middle. If he went either side I would have been deked by it."
"Nate got a shutout during the game and now it's you can go out and be the hero," Winey said. "He's a good kid and he made a good save."
Much of the match was a brilliant display of mistake-free defense as neither team registered a first-half shot on goal.
"We came out kind of jumpy, I don't know if it was nerves," Winey said. "We didn't come out necessarily trying to do a lot differently than we normally do but I knew it was going to be hard for us to put one in."
But the second half slowly opened up for both sides as stand-up goaltending became the story.
Each team traded a pair of headers off corners early in the second to loosen things up. Flanders (5 saves) and Fleetwood's tandem of Kyle Kierstad and Mason Kresge (4 saves) disrupted each sides' counters and breakaways.
The standout play came from Flanders in the second overtime, in which the senior punched one shot away before recovering to catch a twenty-yarder rebound shot of the foot of Fleetwood's Adam Cook.
"I thank God I timed those tackles well," Flanders said. "I do the best I can, kept the shutout and I'm glad to see that."
Mennonite's chances included a pair of Breisinger free-kicks easily defended by the Tigers' backline and a trio of corners spanning both overtime periods. In the second overtime, Nicolas Herrerias drilled a shot to the upper-right corner barely tipped away by Kresge.
In the end though, the Blazers' find the district pot is there for the taking.
"You know we've just as much of a shot as they do," Flanders said on facing Gettysburg. "Even though everyone said we were going to be bad, we said we were going to work for it and we're going to the District final."
Boys' High School Soccer
District 3 AA Semifinal at Hershey Park Stadium
Lancaster Mennonite 0, Fleetwood 0 (4-2 PK)
LM 0 0 0 0 - 0
FW 0 0 0 0 - 0
Penalty kicks: LM 4 (B. Breisinger, B. Rohrer, B. Coryell, C. Ross); FW 2 (M. Schlegel, A. Cook)
Regulation scoring: none
Corners: LM 6, FW 4
Shots: LM 4, FW 5
Saves: LM N. Flanders 5, FW K. Kierstad 0, M. Kresge 4