The one they wanted

Redemption comes to Tigers in state rematch against Camp Hill

Sentinel photo by MIKE GOSS
East Juniata’s Haley Swartz, right, celebrates the Tigers’ victory over Camp Hill while the Lions’ Isabella Hoffer walks off the field after their PIAA Class A girls soccer game Tuesday at Northeastern.

MANCHESTER — It’s a game that East Juniata hoped for — a crack at redemption for last season’s biggest loss.

Falling to Camp Hill in the PIAA Class A semifinals a year ago, the Tigers got the rematch they craved in the opening round of the state tournament this year. They avenged that loss with a 4-3 win over the Lions at Northeastern High School Tuesday evening.

“It feels way better than winning district championships right now,” East Juniata coach Val Dressler said. “Honestly, It feels very good. I mean, we still have a lot of things that we need to work on and clean up, but to pull that win out, that was very, very big for them.”

East Juniata advances to the state quarterfinals for the second year in a row, where it will play District 12 winner Conwell Egan Saturday at a time and location to be determined. Conwell Egan defeated District 1 champion Christopher Dock, 2-0, Tuesday.

It looked at first as though the same script was being written when Camp Hill’s Sheridan Reid scored the game’s first goal in the contest’s first two minutes. East Juniata had other ideas — like ending the half on a three-goal streak and in exciting fashion.

Hailey Swartz led the way with a pair of goals in the first 40 minutes to give the Tigers the lead they wouldn’t relinquish despite the Lions’ great second-half performance.

Her greatest contribution to the first half wasn’t on any of the two goals, but rather, setting up the team’s final score before halftime.

The senior assisted on the half’s final score as time was winding down. She was able to drive down the field and draw a group of Lion defenders toward her. She took advantage of the situation and got the ball to over Thea Neimond in the box.

Neimond got off an uncontested shot and tucked the ball into the right-hand corner of the goal just as time expired in the first half.

Swartz first contributed to the Tigers’ ledger after the team was able to establish its dangerous passing game. She got off a quick strike that Lions’ goalkeeper Kendal McCall couldn’t dive to save in time.

She then scored the go-ahead goal nearly 15 minutes later when she was fed the ball at the right of goal by Kierstyn Fogle. Swartz got a good cross-shot off and tucked it into the left side of the goal.

“It’s been really big for this team (to come back),” Dressler said. “Last year, if we were at this point, we never came back from being down. All four games that we lost last year, we always went down and never came back from. So, it’s really big for these girls to have that drive to still work hard even if they’re down.”

Camp Hill, though, wasn’t about to go down without a fight of its own.

Reid, again, struck for a goal in the half’s first five minutes to close the gap some, and from that point, it became a much more contested, physical matchup. Reid nearly had the game-tying goal minutes later as she got just a few feet away from the goal but shot wide left. It left her flabbergasted, falling to the ground and putting both of her hands on her head in disbelief.

It was the life the Tigers needed as they proved they could play physical soccer with the rest of the best and went to put all the pressure on the Lions’ defense. It paid off as Fogle got an unassisted and game-winning goal.

“They started to calm down a bit when we had the lead and then they score and turn frantic,” Dressler said. “We struggle with high pressure right now and keeping the playing the full 80 minutes of just staying calm. They’re doing a lot better now getting into these more competitive games to stay a little bit calmer and everything. … We made them watch the film from the district championship game (a 3-2 loss to Southern Columbia) and I think that really opened up their eyes.”

Despite having potentially three more games to play and having to win another game to get to the same point they were last year, the Tigers were quite excited to get the weight of losing to the Lions off their back — especially to the eight seniors that Dressler never doubted would be back in this situation.

“I think it’s going to feel so sweet for them. I think Hailey can’t stop smiling ear-to-ear right now and that girl hardly ever smiles,” Dressler joked. “So, I think it feels really good for them. I think they are very proud of themselves. We’ve talked a lot yesterday about ‘If this was your last game, are you going to be happy or unhappy with your play? Did you give 100 percent?’ I think that hit them really hard that they talked all day today about how they have to give 100 percent or they’re just going to be upset with themselves individually.”

East Juniata 4, Camp Hill 3

First half

CH–Sheridan Reid (Julia Raich), 38:26; EJ–Hailey Swartz, 33:12; EJ–Swartz (Kiertsyn Fogle), 17:49; EJ–Thea Neimond (Swartz), 0:00.

Second half

CH–Reid, 35:45; EJ–Fogle, 22:21; CH–Julia Raich, 14:33.

Shots: EJ 9-8. Corners: CH 2-0. Saves: EJ-5 (Kayla Forry); CH-5 (Kendal McCall).