As the Red Land Patriots dogpiled freshman Bryce Watts, the Cumberland Valley girls soccer team stood in stunned silence.
For a team that hadn’t lost in nearly a year, the Eagles were in rare territory as they were stuck watching a team celebrate. But Watts’ goal in double overtime was the dagger that ended CV’s 20-game winning streak.
The Patriots came out on top 2-1 in the 95th minute Thursday afternoon at Crossroads Middle School in a back-and-forth contest between two Commonwealth powerhouses that had the feel of a playoff game. The dramatic conclusion left both sides looking for words.
“Speechless,” Red Land coach Jamie Miller said. “It was awesome. Absolutely awesome. Mentally draining. I didn’t play a second of that game and I’m physically exhausted. It was unbelievable. Every time we play Cumberland Valley, you know it’s gonna be a battle. It could’ve gone either way today. We just battled and battled and they never gave up for a second.”
CV (1-1, 0-1 Commonwealth) looked like it was inevitably going to pull off another victory as the Eagles peppered goalie Rachel Skonecki and the Red Land goal with pointblank shots in the second overtime. But Skonecki and the Red Land defense stood strong and kept the ball out of the net to keep the Patriots alive. The goalie ended the threat as she dove onto the ball as it rolled towards the goalline.
Red Land (4-0, 2-0 Commonwealth) countered and got the ball to Watts, who raced up the sideline. Once into the box, the freshman fired the ball towards the opposite post to beat CV keeper Becky Murphy and set off the celebration.
“It’s frustrating,” CV coach Seth Lehman said. “Whenever you have that many shots and that close in and they somehow don’t seem to go in, you don’t know what to say. I think the ball was on the goalline two, three times in double overtime, I felt like we had five or six shots point blank. It was deflected, goalie made a big save once, and they come down and get a counter and they score. That’s soccer for you.
“Credit goes to them. They stuck, they held, they countered when they had the chance and they capitalized. Credit to them, credit to Bryce on the goal. She had her one chance and she put it away.”
Lehman has said since the preseason that Red Land was going to be a strong team, and Thursday the coach saw just how strong in person.
The Patriots began the opening few minutes on the attack, but quickly were in defensive mode as CV countered and kept trying to drive the ball to the net. Senior Elise Krause chipped a shot that just clipped the crossbar midway through the half as the Patriot defense tried to neutralize the CV offense.
Watts went on a breakaway and fired a shot, but Murphy saved it. The freshman got the rebound and shot again, but Murphy recovered and made another save.
Although CV seemed to outplay the Pats for much of the opening half, Red Land struck first. Senior Kaylee Harner kicked a corner into traffic in front of the net, and junior Brittany Wentzel buried it to put the Pats up 1-0 at 37:36. Watts went down with an ankle injury she suffered when she went up to head the corner in, but she returned and played on it in the second half.
While happy to lead CV at halftime, Miller and the Patriots knew the game was far from over — and so did CV.
“I wasn’t worried at halftime,” Lehman said. “We knew we had the better of the play of the first half and we knew the goal was just gonna come, we just had to be a little more patient on our attack and not try to play too many long balls. Did a great job second half, pressured a ton second half, could’ve had two, three, four more goals. (Skonecki) came up big a couple times. I thought (Red Land’s) Brinley (Watts) had a very good game in the back as well.”
Red Land outshot the Eagles 5-2 after the first 40 minutes. CV finished the game with 11 shots to Red Land’s nine, and eight corners to the Patriots’ one.
The Eagles came out strong in the second half and finally punched one in. Junior Tara Shipe took a throughball from senior Rachel Kovach and drilled it to the lower left corner to even the game at one.
Both teams had opportunities throughout, but neither could find the difference-maker in regulation. In the first overtime, Red Land was aggressive early, but couldn’t beat Murphy.
CV got one of its best opportunities when the Eagles crowded the Patriot net and kicked towards the goal. One ball beat Skonecki, but sophomore Marisa Yeager was there to block it.
“I was 100 percent happy with my defense today,” Miller said. “They were incredible. Actually I wasn’t necassrily so happy the first half when we kept letting them receive it at half field and turn it face up. But once they got the picture of what I was saying, they weren’t able to turn. We kept them facing the way we wanted them to play. Marisa Yeager, Julia Keebaugh, Erin Dziedzina and Brinley Watts, awesome. So solid back there, I hope they can keep playing that way.”
In the second overtime, the Eagles looked destined to clinch it as they kept ripping shots at the net. But the stout defense of Red Land stood strong and Watts was able to counter and find the game-winner.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team and their support after I hurt my ankle,” Watts said. “My sister (Brinley) and Kaylee and having them push me the last couple of minutes and go at it and keep strong. I just had to play with all my will and it paid off and we just beat the biggest (rival) in our state.”
The key to the counter was the defense and Skonecki holding strong in the box. The defense finished with three saves of its own as CV kept ripping shots.
“We survived whatever that mess was in there,” Miller said. “We missed a couple in the first half that we should’ve had right inside the six. Luck is part of soccer. We got lucky, we saved one there, they got lucky on a few. Finally, finally we come out on top. Typically Red Land soccer does not come out on top of games that go like that, and it was just awesome.”
While ecstatic about the win, Miller reminded her team that the road doesn’t get any easier for the Pats. Red Land plays at Red Lion Saturday before a tough home contest with the Mechanicsburg Wildcats.
CV will try to bounce back Saturday in a home contest against Governor Mifflin. Lehman wasn’t mad with how his team played, but said there are still little things the Eagles can fix. One thing Lehman wants to improve is finishing teams and not letting them hang around.
The coach also hopes the loss serves as a motivator for his team. The last time CV lost, the Eagles won the rest of the games they played, including the district and state titles.
“I think it’ll motivate these girls,” Lehman said. “It’ll motivate us coaches as well to do a better job coaching and trying to figure some things out, but I’m excited. I’m excited about our team, I was very happy with the way we played today. Just got unlucky a couple of times, and Red Land put the ball away.”