Girls' soccer: Donegal falls to Middletown, 2-1 in district opener
MOUNT JOY - Playing in the shadow of the newly erected stadium at Donegal High School, the Lady Indians' soccer players proved they were able to build on a successful season from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, that end came in the first round of the District 3 AA playoffs Monday afternoon on the grass playing field adjacent to the stadium, where the No. 9 Middletown Blue Raiders upended No. 8 Donegal 2-1 despite a valiant second half by the Indians (14-5).
After a first half controlled by the Blue Raiders (14-5), Donegal opened the second with a bevy of offensive chances, including the game-tying goal from sophomore Sydney Skirboll in the 55th minute that put to rest the memory of a 4-0 season-opening defeat versus the very same Middletown opponent.
"We grew as a team," said Indians' head coach Alex Radovic on the difference between the two meetings with the Blue Raiders. "They were obviously the better team (then) but that had nothing to say about today. I think we proved, most importantly to ourselves, that we can play a good game and be competitive."
Having been outshot 7-1 in the first half-the Blue Raiders scoring in just the third minute on Bianca Jasper's 30-yard layup arcing over Donegal goalkeeper Lauren Stwalley-Donegal played furious possession soccer in the second half.
In the 50th minute, Emma Hudson's 35-yard blast sailed over Blue Raiders' goalie Brooke Myers (4 saves) and off the post. Bailey Smith then found herself wide-open at the near-post, but her shot trickled wide of goal as the Indians struggled to net the equalizer.
"If I remember correctly the first 15 minutes of the second half we really had two or three good chances we could have put the game away," Radovic said. "We got post and had a good chance there but couldn't put the ball in the net, and you know, give credit to Middletown for finding a way to win the game."
After Skirboll's flip past Myers (4 saves) on Hudson's direct kick from the near sideline knotted the score, the Blue Raiders started to regain the offensive that netted double-digit first-half chances.
Middletown's forwards Alexis Ulrich and Rowan Sessa found the Donegal defense on its heels in the 68th minute, their two-on-one rush denied at first by Stwalley (4 saves). But Sessa regained possession and shot toward goal, the ball glancing off the back of a leaping Indians' defender and into the open net.
Donegal, which out-cornered Middletown 6-1, had a pair of late corners as time wound down, but the Raiders' defense held true.
"Both teams played hard but we did not deserve to lose the game," said Radovic, estimating that eighty percent of his player rotation returns next season. "All of our chances, all the touches reaching the point of attack, getting crosses, are all the good points to take out of today's second half."
And into next season, where the attitude should carry over, and the building blocks of a new stadium are already in place.
Girls' High School Soccer
District 3 AA First Round
Middletown 2, Donegal 1
MD 1 1 - 2
DN 0 1 - 1
Middletown Scoring: B. Jasper (B. Zavoda assist), 3:00; R. Sessa (UA), 68:00
Donegal Scoring: S. Skirboll (E. Hudson assist), 55:00
Corners-Shots: MD 1-10, DN 6-6
Saves: MD B. Myers 4; DN L. Stwalley 4, R. Miles 2