Ea­gles soar to semis

Riegel’s goal, air- tight de­fense lift Blue Moun­tain to win over Mars

The Republican Herald - - SPORTS - BY CHAR­LIE ROTH STAFF WRITER

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.

CHAR­LIE Roth / STAFF WRITER

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.

CHAR­LIE ROTH / STAFF WRITER

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.

CHAR­LIE ROTH / SPORTS WRITER

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.

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