COCOLAMUS - It's always tough to lose.
It's especially tough to lose when you have a two-goal lead against a team in a higher classification, and give up three unanswered scores for the loss.
The East Juniata soccer team know this - it's exactly what the Tigers did against non-league opponent Mechanicsburg on Wednesday night in a 3-2, non-league outcome.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
East Juniata’s Landon Sheaffer (11) and Mechanicsburg’s Matt Strauch jockey for control of the ball Wednesday evening in Cocolamus.
But every team has the occasional weakness, and Wednesday East Juniata's weakness was lack of teamwork. This was no more evident than after Mechanicsburg scored its first goal.
With the Tigers up 2-0 in the second half, everything appeared to be in hand for the home team. The defense was keeping Mechanicsburg off balance and unable to make any good shots, and the offense was continually making attacks on Mechanicsburg's goal. However, Mechanicsburg's Joe Lewis wasn't about to let East Juniata keep that lead without a challenge.
Finding a hole in East Juniata's defense, Lewis dribbled around the defenders then shot one past East Juniata keeper Adam Strawser to make the score 2-1. From there, it was all Mechanicsburg as the Wildcats struck two more times before the last horn.
IF YOU GO
East Juniata travels to Millersburg Monday
The real kicker for East Juniata was that this loss was largely because of lack of teamwork on the Tigers' part, coach Don Troutman said.
"When we don't defend as a team and attack as a team and pressure as a team, we're not nearly as good as we can be," Troutman said. "We're still good, but we don't get the grade. And you don't get the grade when you have happen what we had happen tonight."
And what specifically happened was a breakdown of East Juniata's defense. From early in the game there was evidence of discord among the Tigers, as the boys had trouble communicating over which Wildcat each defender would mark. And although this wasn't initially a problem when East Juniata had the lead, it turned out to be an issue that eventually eroded the Tigers' lead and resulted in the loss.
'The beginning of the second half we were more dangerous than they were, but it kind of turned around and they became more dangerous than us," Troutman said. "But a lot of that was some fundamental things that we didn't do that we know how to do - clearing the ball out of the back, rather than playing with the ball in the back, making sure we stay goal side of our marks and run with our marks, and we didn't do that. And with a team like that, if you don't do that they'll burn you.
"And they did - they burned us."
But even if East Juniata failed in a few fundamental areas, Mechanicsburg still deserves credit for the win. The Wildcats were tenacious in their attack against East Juniata the whole game, and senior goalkeeper Erik Hanson had several outstanding saves to help keep East Juniata at bay.
In the end, it's clear that it was a frustrating loss for East Juniata. The Tigers had several high points, including beautiful goals from both Jake Sankey and Devin Goodling, and also several tough saves by Strawser. But it was Mechanicsburg, rather than East Juniata, that was able to walk off the field with head held high.
"I'm just disappointed that we let it slip away. And that's what I felt we did. I felt we let it slip away by what we did. Not that (Mechanicsburg) didn't pass the ball well, but I thought what we did was what allowed them to have the success that they did," Troutman said.
The JV match ended in a 2-2 overtime tie.
East Juniata (9-2) plays another non-league match at Tulpehocken on Friday.