The power of one

Tigers win second 1-0 state game, make final four

Sentinel photo by TIM SHUMAKER
Calvary Christian goalie Celeste Sanchez blocks an attempt by East Juniata’s Thea Neimond (9) and Brianna Henry (22) as Calvary Christian’s Allison Stuart assists Saturday during a PIAA Class A girls soccer quarterfinal game in Manchester.

MANCHESTER — Although pleased by the scoring opportunities her team was able to generate, East Juniata coach Valeria Dressler was equally frustrated by her Tigers’ inability to stick the ball in the back of the net — despite their many chances.

Eventually one ball did squirt across the goal line.

And, as it turned out, it was the only finish Dressler’s resourceful bunch needed in order to continue a historic run and extend their splendid season for at least a few more days.

Thea Neimond’s goal with just under 25 minutes remaining — off a nifty through ball from Leah Sankey — propelled East Juniata past District 1 champ Calvary Christian, 1-0, in a PIAA Class A girls quarterfinal match Saturday afternoon at chilly Northeastern York High School’s Bobcat Stadium.

Lily Sankey needed to make just one stop between the goal posts as the Tigers (21-3-1) earned an all-or-nothing date with District 3 runner-up Camp Hill (15-8-0) in Tuesday night’s semifinals at Central Dauphin Middle School’s Landis Field.

Camp Hill needed penalty kicks (4-1) to squeeze past District 4 champ Bloomsburg, 3-2. Bloomsburg posted a 3-0 victory over East Juniata in the District 4 title game.

“We’re happy about (getting the result), but we have things to work on here and we hope to continue to move on,” said Dressler, whose Tigers edged District 3 champion (and state defending champ) Fairfield by the same 1-0 margin in their state opener.

“We have to build on this game,” she said.

Goalkeeper Alanis Jean-Baptiste finished with 13 saves for Calvary Christian (15-5-1), which like East Juniata was appearing in its first state quarterfinal.

“She did play very good,” Neimond admitted.

Until Neimond slotted a ball past the Cougars’ omnipresent senior, Jean-Baptiste repeatedly frustrated a Tiger squad that finished the game with a 16-1 advantage on the shot chart and held a 9-0 edge in corner kicks.

While a number of East Juniata pops were struck right at Jean-Baptiste, she also had one flashy sequence nearly 26 minutes in when she denied Emily Wert on a breakaway before sliding to her right to deny a Kierstyn Fogle attempt at the left post.

“I just felt like everything was not going our way, but we just had to keep under control and eventually know we were gonna get it,” Neimond said.

“We always say patience with some fire,” Dressler added. “We kept hitting the goalkeeper and we had opportunities. It was not the prettiest game, but we got the job done. We just need to be more accurate with our shots.”

Lily Sankey’s one test came late in the opening half, but she handled that chance with a slide to her left to prevent Kennedy Cash’s boot from squirting inside the right post.

Since the Tigers spent much of the 80-minute postseason exercise playing in Calvary’s defensive end, East Juniata’s backfield and Sankey weren’t called into action all that much.

Finally, the Tigers got the one score they needed when Leah Sankey’s diagonal through ball slipped Neimond behind the defense and gave her a golden opportunity to choose a side as she steamed toward goal. And when Neimond directed a ball to Jean-Baptiste’s left that wound up creasing the net, the Tigers had a 1-0 lead they weren’t about to concede.

Neimond had several opportunities to add to her team’s narrow advantage, but fanned on one and saw Jean-Baptiste use her feet to kick out another.

“We still needed to keep going, because they were coming out strong,” Neimond said.

What didn’t help the East Juniata attack was losing midfielder Paige Crissman to an ankle injury in the ninth minute, a mishap that could cost the junior the rest of the season. With Hailey Swartz already out, that pushed Wert in at center forward and brought Leah Sankey into the midfield.

“Every person that steps in, as long as they work hard, that’s all that matters,” Neimond admitted. “If they work hard, it makes up for a lot.”

Fortunately for the Tigers, the energetic Swartz (ankle) may be back for Tuesday night’s scrap with Camp Hill. Win there and the Tri-Valley League champions will be making the trek to Hersheypark Stadium Saturday morning to play for state gold.

“How they just keep going is so exciting for absolutely everyone,” Dressler admitted. “Just been a long season and it’s so good the girls want to still work.”

East Juniata 1, Calvary Christian 0

Second half

EJ–Thea Neimond (Leah Sankey), 55:35.

Shots: EJ 16-1. Corners: EJ 9-0. Saves: CC-13 (Alanis Jean-Baptiste); EJ-1 (Lily Sankey).