HERSHEY — Week by week, game by game, the Camp Hill girls soccer team had grown stronger in their belief that they could compete for a state championship.
That belief was confirmed Saturday on the soggy turf at Hersheypark Stadium, where the Lions engaged returning state runner-up Shady Side Academy in a wide-open, back-and-forth first half in which either squad looked capable of claiming gold.
It was the Indians, though, who would have the final say.
Sparked by a Caroline Davis goal just before halftime, the District 7 runners-up notched a pair of second-half tallies to break open a close contest and claim a 4-0 victory over the Lions in the PIAA Class 1A championship game.
The win gave Shady Side (17-4) its first state championship, coming a year after it had fallen to Fairfield in its first title game appearance.
It ends a Camp Hill season that saw the Lions overcome an early-season coaching change and a handful of regular-season losses to reach the state title game for the first time in program history.
“After the Bloomsburg game [in the state quarterfinals], I think that’s when they really started thinking that we could make it,” Camp Hill coach Jared Latchford said. “Especially at the start of the season, when I stepped in, I don’t think anyone saw us being at this point. I’m definitely going to emphasize that to the girls when I get a chance to talk them, because I know they’re really upset right now. They have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m really proud.”
Saturday’s tilt was played in a consistent, heavy rain, and the conditions led to skipping balls and slow clears that made life a little more difficult for each team’s defenders.
The opportunities were abundant for both squads in an up-tempo first half, but it was Shady Side’s set-piece game that produced the first goal. In the 16th minute, Davis delivered a corner service that was bounced around in the box before Melissa Riggins knocked it home.
The early goal did nothing to stop the back-and-forth play, and Camp Hill continued to generate pressure, at one point peppering the Shady Side goal with three shots in less than two minutes. Shady Side keeper Molly Skvorak and her defense kept the Lions from capitalizing though, and the equalizer never came.
Instead, Davis delivered a 25-yard strike with 2:13 remaining in the first half to give the Indians a critical 2-0 advantage.
“All season, we haven’t been a first-half team,” Shady Side coach Leah Powers said. “That’s something that we have been working on, coming out and playing hard from the start. We shifted our formation to be more offensive, so we really focused on that push to try and put them back on their heels.”
Camp Hill had chances to climb back in it in the second half. Skvorak denied Sheridan Reid from about 6 yards out roughly 10 minutes into the half in what was likely the Lions’ best opportunity. The Indians then salted the game away in the final 11 minutes, when Shady Side’s Krystyna Rytel scored career goals Nos. 100 and 101 in a span of 6:24 to finally put things out of reach.
“We never wanted to get too comfortable up 2-0,” Rytel said. “That was enough for us to feel comfortable, so we just really wanted to keep going and get more goals and just put it away.”
Skvorak finished the day with nine saves to record the shutout, with four of them coming in the second half.