SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP — As has been made clear through three meetings this season, the margin separating Cumberland Valley and Central Dauphin is a thin one.
In the teams’ third and final contest Tuesday — one with the season series, a district title and a state playoff berth on the line — the Eagles hit on the formula needed to push them past the Rams and keep their season alive.
Cumberland Valley mixed its skill with some fortitude and a friendly bounce in a District 3 Class 4A championship slugfest at Eagle View Stadium, with Carly Smith’s goal in the 62nd minute and strong goalkeeping from Abbie Miller giving CV a 1-0 victory and the 16th girls soccer title in program history.
“We had a tough road to get through, and once we got into this game we just hyped it up pretty big as being the first time a district final was not played at a neutral site,” CV head coach George Gemberling said. “It was cool that we had a chance to host it here with the circumstances that have been going on. We had just really been focusing all season after we knew they had shortened the bracket and made it tough.”
The win advances CV to the state playoffs, where the Eagles will host District 12 rep Archbishop Carroll in a quarterfinal game Saturday. With only district champions making the state field after the PIAA shrunk the playoff fields due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday’s tilt took on added importance.
“I knew that I had to not disappoint them and make my team proud,” Miller said. “I just really wanted to bring home the trophy for the school. We just worked so hard this year that I felt like it was something that we had to do.”
Miller and her mates faced some adversity almost right from the start, as senior center back Kayla Honeysett was lost to injury less than three minutes into the game. That forced some adjusting and shuffling along the Eagles’ back line, but they weathered a CD push through the middle stretch of the half to keep things scoreless.
The CV offense started cooking late in the first, with the best opportunity coming after a direct kick by Smith. CD keeper Emma Morin made a diving fingertip save on the redirect, and the teams went into the half scoreless.
The second half saw more ebb and flow across the field, with each team generating a few chances but no goals.
That was until Smith stepped into a direct kick from 40 yards out, sending it toward the far post and teammate Emily Mashinski driving toward the net. But Mashinski was never able to get a touch on it; instead, the ball bounced past a shielded and surprised CD side and into the net at the 61:51 mark.
“I was just looking for Emily on the far post, and then it just went in,” Smith said. “We were really excited about it. We worked really hard to get here with all the changes.”
The goal did not deflate the Rams’ attack.
CD pushed hard after the score and only missed the tying goal thanks to the efforts of Miller. She made an outstanding kick save on a point-blank shot just four minutes after Smith’s tally, and another in short order to keep the shutout intact.
“Carly is my best friend, and I am so glad she nailed that shot,” Miller said. “I want to play basketball in college, so this will be last time playing soccer. I wasn’t ready for this to end, and I wasn’t ready to stop playing with my best friends.”