Eagles soar to semis
Riegel’s goal, air- tight defense lift Blue Mountain to win over Mars
WINGATE — Time was short, the game was scoreless and Sydney Riegel was just following coach Mike Burcik’s advice.
With the ball on her foot, Blue Mountain’s all- time scoring leader worked past Mars’ last line of defense and fired a shot from about 15 yards that beat goalie Claire Valentine low and to the left.
The goal, her 30th of the season, lifted the Eagles to a 1- 0 state quarterfinal victory Saturday at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium and a history- making berth in the PIAA Class 3A state semifinals Tuesday against District 7 champ Oakland Catholic.
“It was the end of the game, and I felt our momentum was ending,” said Riegel, whose goal is likely the biggest of her career to this point.
“Coach told us we needed to shoot more, so I made a decision to dribble past some defenders and take the shot. It was an incredible feeling when it went in.
“This is so awesome. I’m so incredibly
proud of what my teammates were able to accomplish.”
With the victory, Blue Mountain ( 22- 2) becomes the first Schuylkill County soccer team — boys or girls — to reach the final four in any class. They’ll need two more victories to become the league’s first state title team. The championship game is set for Friday at 4 p. m. at Hersheypark Stadium.
“This is history- making, what these girls are doing,” said Burcik, who already this season guided the Eagles to the league’s Division I and overall championships along with the District 11 crown. “This has to be a proud moment, not only for these girls, but for the school and the entire community, as well as the league.”
Oakland Catholic, which handed Mars ( 19- 2) its only previous defeat in the District 7 title game, reached the semifinal round Saturday with a 2- 1 quarterfinal victory over Hampton, another District 7 representative. The semifinal will be contested Tuesday at a site and time still to be determined.
Tuesday’s other semifinal will feature District 1 champion Villa Joseph Marie, a 4- 0 quarterfinal winner over Scranton Prep, and District 3 runner- up Mechanicsburg, which scored a 2- 1 quarterfinal victory in overtime over District 12 cham- pion Archbishop Ryan.
Riegel’s goal capped a game in which the Eagles’ staunch defense limited Mars, ranked as high as 24th nationally this season in the USA Today national girls’ high school soccer poll, to just one shot that reached keeper Lianne Derrick.
For Der rick and the defense that supports her, the shutout was the 17th of the season and eighth in succession. T he Eagles have allowed 10 goals in their 24 games.
The game was played in temperatures barely above freezing with strong, gusting winds, and Blue Mountain, with the wind in its face the entire first half, held the Fightin’ Planets without a shot over the first 40 minutes. Their only shot on goal, in the 57th minute, was handled easily by Derrick.
“We took playing into the wind in the first half and we wanted to keep the score as tight as we could,” Burcik said. “We needed to do that, and then Riegel put it away for us.”
Mars, which also fields a strong defense much like the Eagles, was coming off a 2- 0 opening- round victory over District 3 champion Manheim Central. It was a game for which the Fightin’ Planets had to travel from their home in the greater Pittsburgh area all the way to Cedar Crest High School near Lebanon. In that one, Valentine only faced two Manheim Central shots on goal.
Blue Mountain mounted six shots on goal against the Planets, with the game- winner being the final one. Three came in the first half when the Eagles were battling the wind.
“I felt like we were the better team in the first half,” said Mars coach Blair Ger- lach. “We created some opportunities, but we weren’t able to finish them.
“In the second half, it was a little different with the wind. We were looking for a bounce to go our way and we didn’t get that bounce.”
NOTE: Because the Mars bus got caught in heavy traffic caused by an accident on Interstate 80, the Fightin’ Planets didn’t arrive at the stadium until nearly 1: 30 for a game that was scheduled to begin at 1 p. m. The game finally got started at 2 p. m.
Blue Mountain’s Isabel Fortune, Kylie Kutz and Lexi Phillips, left, celebrate with teammates Sydney Riegel ( 27), Olivia Benner ( 10) and Jacey Miller ( 20) after the final seconds ticked off the clock in Saturday’s PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal victory over Mars at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium.
Blue Mountain’s Sydney Riegel ( 27) moves the ball up the field as Mars’ Londynn Gonzalez ( 6) gives chase to defend during Saturday’s PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium. Riegel scored the match’s only goal in the Eagles’ 1- 0 victory.
Blue Mountain’s Abree Lewis ( 6) shields Mars’ Kara Rocco from the ball with the Eagles’ Sydney Riegel ( 27) and Fightin’ Planets’ Ellie Howell trailing the play during Saturday’s PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium.