LOWER PAXTON TWP. — The Camp Hill girls soccer team continues to make history.
Sheridan Reid found the net twice in the first half, while Ava Brackett added another in between Reid’s two goals as the Lions held off East Juniata 3-2 in Tuesday’s PIAA Class 1A semifinal.
The win at Central Dauphin’s George Ebersole Stadium clinched Camp Hill’s first state championship appearance in program history.
“It feels great, I mean, we’re making a name for our soccer program now, so it’s a great feeling,” Reid said with a big smile. “I’m proud of all our girls.”
But it was far from easy.
The Lions (13-8), the District 3 runners-up, had confidence and momentum on their side entering the game, building a 3-0 lead at halftime. It was far from dominance — Camp Hill just made their first-half shots count.
And the Tigers of East Juniata (21-4-1), however, weren’t about to let the Lions just pounce all over them. The District 4 runner-up held Camp Hill to just one shot in the second half and scored two goals within five minutes of each other, putting pressure on the Lions side.
“I said to myself as I was pacing the sideline, ‘I don’t really want to see the shots from this game,’ because it’s not going to be pretty for us,” Camp Hill coach Jared Latchford said with a chuckle. “I think we had three shots in the first half and we just happened to finish all three of them. I tried to hammer the point that that wasn’t going to be enough, but I guess luckily enough for us it was.”
While the Tigers hammered shot after shot, the Lions had two things working for them: goalie Kendal McCall and lady luck.
The Tigers out-shot Camp Hill 10-4 in the first half despite the deficit — a sign of things to come.
East Juniata finally broke through to make it 3-1 in the 63rd minute off a goal from Thea Neimond. Five minutes later the crack got bigger as a hard shot from Neimond met the foot of Hailey Swartz for the goal, making it 3-2.
“You kind of had a feeling that it was going to happen eventually,” Latchford said about EJ’s quick goals. “I had a feeling that something was going to happen, that they were going to score at some point. We don’t really react well when they score on us and that showed again. I think they reacted really well to the second goal.”
The Lions, battle tested and used to adversity after a midseason coaching change, weren’t about to give up.
The madness finally halted moments later when Camp Hill’s Ashley Chrencik was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A hard clear from Raich missed its mark and struck Chrencik, knocking her in the head and forcing her to the ground where she lied still for several minutes.
The scary moment sent a hush over the field. But it also allowed the Lions to regroup with Chrencik safely back on the sideline under her own power. Her status after the game was unknown.
“Sheridan really stepped up there when [Chrencik] got hit there. You could see her bringing them together and just taking charge.”
Camp Hill’s defense buckled down in the final minute; East Juniata had minimal chances after that to score the equalizer. And that sealed the Lions’ first state final in school history.
“The girls were fatigued from paying that last game [a win in penalty kicks Saturday over Bloomsburg], but a couple of them really stepped up,” Latchford said. “Sheridan has been on a tear lately... and she’s really putting away her chances. Jules [Julia Raich] back there has been great and I can’t think of anything more than those two could have done for us today.”
“I told my team we were playing defensively and I didn’t like that, and we didn’t have much opportunity,” Reid said. “I believe in our defense and we just had to get everything out. It was just frustrating to not have any possession on their side of the field, but it was a good outcome [in the end].”
Camp Hill built its lead on the legs of Reid, who scored in the 10th and 29th minutes. Brackett’s goal came at 17:48 on an assist from Kristian Pinder. The Lions recorded just six shots all game compared to EJ’s 17.
“I haven’t gotten to see the reaction [of the team] much yet because everyone was concerned about Ashley, but I’m sure they’re going to be all jittery on the bus on the way home and all excited,” Latchford said. “I don’t think any of them expected to get here, so it’s one of those moments where it’s kind of surreal still for them. It kind of will sink in in a bit here.”
The Camp Hill girls will take on District 7 No. 2 seed Shady Side, which beat WPIAL champ Greensburg Central Catholic 3-0 Tuesday night, on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Hersheypark Stadium. It will be an all-Lions day in Chocolatetown, U.S.A., with Camp Hill’s boys also booking a return trip to defend their state title.
The boys, 6-0 winners over Masterman, will take on Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic at 1:30 on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium after defeating Masterman 6-0.