Mustangs win District 4 championship
Beiler scores two goals, assists on third
DANVILLE — Kelli Beiler has had a hand in pretty much any measure of Mustang soccer success in the three years she’s been mainstay on the girls roster.
It should be no surprise, then, that she paced Midd-West, the No. 1 seed in District 4 Class 2A, to a championship Thursday with a 3-1 victory over Central Columbia at Danville.
Beiler scored once in each half and added an assist on the third goal as the Mustangs advance into the state bracket. Central Columbia (14-6-1) also qualified for states by making it to this game.
Midd-West will open against District 2 champion Lake Lehman in a first-round game to be played Tuesday at a site in District 4.
Beiler, an all-state player headed to Penn State, was less a factor early in the game than later, but made it count when she was. She looked good for the first goal roughly 30 minutes into the contest, but was whistled offside on that one.
The Blue Jays had their strongest effort of the half — really, their best of the game — just two minutes later on a breakaway. It was a reflection of the Jays’ success and failure all in one — they were able to take advantage of a soft middle the Mustangs allowed in the opening half, but were unable to break Midd-West in the zone.
“I think, too, in the midfield having our senior Lyndsey Schenck out there, it took us time to adjust,” Midd-West coach Lance Burris said. “I thought we made the adjustments really good in the second half. It just took us a little bit longer in the first half.”
And, the Mustangs didn’t go into the break empty. As time was running out, Beiler got under the Central Columbia defense — literally — to punch a ball into the net. Burris pointed out that the delivery was almost as difficult as the final touch.
“Even Jenna Paige just working on the left wing here to get the serve in, it was a hard battle out there,” he said. “And then for Kelli just to battle there with a minute to go in the first half was huge for us.”
The second half was all Mustangs, as Midd-West started by putting more pressure on the ball early and pushing hard toward the goal. The reward came after a charging call against the Blue Jays; the ensuing free kick featured a mesmerizing move by the Mustangs to put the ball in play, and Beiler’s boot it sailed into the goal.
Not helping was the fact that Midd-West and Central Columbia combined to block Blue Jays’ goalie Allee Swisher’s view of the ball — she fruitlessly tried to tell her team she couldn’t see as the play began.
Seven minutes later it was much of the same, with Beiler delivering the ball to Alyssa Keister at the top of the box and Keister finishing the job. The deception move proved to be the winning formula for Midd-West, which had a 3-0 lead with 25 minutes still to play.
“Which one? The first one or the second one?,” Burris said of the trickery. ” We spend a lot of time on our restarts. I just think in big, big games that’s what makes or breaks you. If you look at a lot of any kind of games that are close a lot of times your goals are scored on restarts.”
Minutes later, it could have been 4-0 but for a slightly wide shot by Midd-West freshman Arianna Rich, who had an open goal to shoot at.
“She’s been huge for us all season as a freshman,” Burris said. ‘She got the game winner against Loyalsock and then came out tonight and battled in there.”
The shutout ended with seven minutes to play when the Mustangs were flagged for a tackle in the box. Lauren Bull, the sophomore star for Central Columbia, converted the penalty kick for her team’s lone score.
Midd-West (20-1) achieved one of Burris’ personal goals with the 20th win of the season. Previous district championship teams — the last was in 2015 — have had more than the one blemish carried by the Mustangs from early in the season.
“That’s been a goal of mine since I started coaching,” he said. “I didn’t think it would happen this soon but I’m definitely ecstatic.”
NOTES: Central Columbia coach Shawn Callender has spent time on the sideline with all four of the teams that played in Class 2A finals Thursday, boys and girls. … Lori Goodling picked up a championship medal with her new team; she previously coached at East Juniata, whose girls fell in their district final Thursday.
Midd-West 3, Central Columbia 1
MW–Kelli Beiler (Jenna Paige), 38:45.
MW–Beiler, 47:06; MW–Alyssa Keister (Beiler), 54:22; CC–Lauren Bull (PK), 72:50.
Shots: M 11-7. Corners: 2-2. Saves: C-6 (Allee Swisher), M-4 (Carli Marshall).