Mechanicsburg found itself on its heels and on the run through the first 15 minutes of the second half, clinging to a one-goal lead as visiting Hershey ramped up the pressure at Northside Elementary Soccer Field.
In the 51st minute, Hershey’s Damaria Wedderburn found space on the right side and laced a shot past goalkeeper Ariel Frey, but the Wildcats’ Kyra Dillon intercepted the ball on its way to the inside of the far post, protecting the lead.
Dillon made two defensive saves, Halle Engle netted her second goal of the night, and the Wildcats earned their fifth win in a row, a physical 2-0 decision through tension as thick as the humid air in Mechanicsburg.
“She’s not the most recognized player,” Wildcats coach Mike O’Brien said of Dillon, “but she’s a key part of our defense.”
Dillon wasn’t in the lineup when Mechanicsburg let a 3-1 lead slip away in a 4-3 loss at Hershey Sept. 21, but having recovered from an ankle injury, the junior joined center-back Alex Black and defender Sophia Baldini to anchor the back line for the Wildcats (10-3-2, 6-2-2 Keystone).
“She’s got speed and a competitive nature,” O’Brien said. “She’s a good leader on the field. She’s just a tough, tough hard-nosed kid, and she does a great job.”
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Engle opened the scoring at 37:27, punching a shot past Hershey goalkeeper Cassie Paioletti after Baldini slipped a pass through the Trojan defense.
The Trojans (6-8-2, 5-4-2) spent the rest of the night applying pressure in an attempt to net the equalizer, throwing six shots on goal and earning three chances off corner kicks in the second half. But seven total saves from Frey and Dillon’s two defensive saves preserved the lead.
“They’re a young team,” O’Brien said of the Trojans, “and they’ve got some players for sure. They’re well coached and pretty well organized, so it’s good to come out of it with the win.”
Engle added a cushion at 74:16. Mechanicsburg’s Madison Michelitch drew Hershey defenders into the box and slid a pass over to a cutting Engle on the left side.
Engle put the shot past Paioletti (four saves), sparking a sigh of relief and a celebration.
“That was a smart, heads-up play by Madison,” O’Brien said.
Hershey lost steam in its comeback attempt when Wedderburn was shown a red card with eight minutes to play. Trojans coach Alanna Casey was not available for comment after the game.
The Wildcats have won five in a row since falling to 5-3-2. They return to action Thursday at Cedar Cliff. Hershey hosts Carlisle Monday in its penultimate regular-season contest.