MECHANICSBURG — Everything about Mechanicsburg’s unbeaten season has suggested that the Wildcats are the type of squad to be trusted with a one goal lead.
Still, a single elimination playoff game is not something to be taken lightly. And so, having entered Monday’s second half with just such a lead, the Wildcats decided it was time to make things a bit more comfortable for themselves.
Sparked by Elena Hinkson’s long-distance strike in the 47th minute, No. 1 Mechanicsburg piled up four goals in the second half to cruise to a 5-0 victory over No. 16 Bishop McDevitt in a District 3 Class 3A first-round girls soccer playoff game at Mechanicsburg’s Northside Elementary.
The victory pushes Mechanicsburg to Thursday’s quarterfinals, where the Wildcats will face No. 9 Fleetwood. The Tigers were a 4-0 winner over No. 8 York Suburban Monday.
“Getting the one in the first half was big, because they have to go play,” Mechanicsburg coach Jake June said. “They have to play us straight up because they’re down a goal. We liked being in that position where we could just play without worrying about them changing formation or being more defensive.
“You want to extend your lead if you can, but I think we have confidence in ourselves. We trust each other on the field from the back line up, and we knew somebody was going to put the ball in the back of the net and we knew we would defend well.”
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That someone to find the net was Hinkson. With the Wildcats holding a 1-0 advantage thanks to Halle Engle’s first half goal, the sophomore midfielder delivered a bolt from the blue after a few minutes of midfield play opened the second half. She won a ball and then turned and fired from roughly 30 yards, finding the top of the net and providing a critical two goal cushion.
“They were coming at us pretty hard, and we knew we had to keep pushing to get that second goal,” Hinkson said. “We knew we could definitely get it, just working as a team all together. It just took time, but we got it.”
The goal opened the floodgates. Fellow midfielder Lainie Anderson found the net off an assist from Engle just 2:06 later, pushing the lead to 3-0. Everything after that was academic, with Isabelle Martin and Talia Gilliard each scoring in the final 10 minutes to create the final margin.
The Wildcats allowed McDevitt five shots on goal, though none were close to getting past keeper Lindsey Costello. The Mechanicsburg midfield was key throughout, helping control play from the outset. Engle’s goal came off the Wildcats’ second corner, part of a hot start that saw Mechanicsburg pressure the McDevitt net in the opening five minutes.
“We definitely had some nerves,” Anderson said. “We know it’s a big game and we wanted to play well, and we’re hungry to win. We want to go super far this year. We’re all humble about it and we work hard. We all do it for each other and that’s what pushes us.”