Mechanicsburg wasn’t about to let last year’s PIAA Class 3A early exit dictate this season’s outcome.
This time, they were ready to change all that.
The Wildcats downed District 6 champion Hollidaysburg in a huge 6-1 quarterfinals win at Northside Elementary Saturday afternoon, and they did it in dominating fashion.
“When you get to this point I think you have less information to go off of and you expect a hard-fought game,” Wildcats head coach Jake June said. “I think we did a really good job of settling into who we are — we possess well from the back, to the midfield, to up top and we create a lot of opportunities and we finish. In the game of soccer, when you start scoring goals and they start coming pretty quickly, it’s just a confidence booster in doing what you do best and being the best version of yourself.”
Mechanicsburg came out of the gate rearing to go, forcing the Tigers to go into defensive mode early. It wasn’t long before Halle Engle drew first blood for the Wildcats, deking past two defenders to sink the first goal.
The Wildcats’ midfield was on point all game, hitting all of their touches and creating chances for those up top. Elena Hinkson buried a feed from Engle in the 16th minute before Engle tallied her second goal — and 200th career point — just one minute later.
“It’s honestly exciting, and it’s one of the goals that I set for myself, personally,” Engle said about hitting 200 points. “I’m glad I got to achieve it, especially with my teammates alongside me.”
Engle was all over the field for Mechanicsburg — not only trying to create chances for herself but create even more chances for teammates. Hollidaysburg’s defense was the weak spot in this game, and the Wildcats took advantage of that.
“Halle’s been Halle, and we need her to be,” June said. “Halle understands her role and creates for us. I’m just so happy for her, I know how hard she works at the sport — playing club and doing things year-round. I think every year she’s come back a little bit stronger and hungrier, and she’s kind of proven that this year.
“She’s a force, and even teams that know about her know that she’s tough to stop.”
Lilly Eckroth buried two goals before the end of the first half to give Mechanicsburg the 5-0 lead, and although the second half was slower with each team scoring a goal, the Wildcats showed in just the first half that they had their first state game in the bag.
“We expected them to have strong offense, and I think our defense played phenomenal today and kept them shut down,” Engle said. “I think their weak spot was definitely their defense, and I think we took advantage of that and finished six on them. Not only just me, but I felt like everyone’s touches were great today and, honestly, us winning the midfield helps my offensive line with me up top. I think we were all just ready to play and get out there.”
The Wildcats head into Tuesday’s semifinal match against District 7 champion Mars, which whitewashed District 10 champion Warren 8-0. The game will be at Hollidaysburg High School at 6 p.m.
Email Mallory Merda at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @MalloryMerda