• Piner comes through in clutch
By Jonathan Howard
Jun 2, 2011, 13:47
CHESTER — Two years ago, Thomas Dale held a 1-0 lead over Mills Godwin in the Central Region girls soccer tournament late in the game. The Eagles eventually tied the game with time running down in the second half and eventually walked away with an overtime victory.
On Tuesday night, the Lady Knights got their revenge. When 100 minutes of action couldn't solve anything, the game went to penalty kicks tied 1-1. It was then that sophomore stopper Lauryn Piner entered the game as the Thomas Dale keeper. Piner made two stops and knocked in what proved to be the winning shot, giving the home team a 4-3 advantage in the shootout.
“It feels good,” Thomas Dale coach John Kabler said. “Redemption went out the window two minutes into the game. It became a game of attrition.”
Thanks to the unseasonably hot weather, water breaks were instituted mid-way through each half. They were sorely needed. Players looked tired from the get go due to the extreme conditions. Mills Godwin coach Ali Toole liberally subbed her team all game to keep players fresh.
Despite Mills Godwin’s tactics, it was Thomas Dale that would look fresh early and score the first goal. Central District player of the year Regan Flores got things started when she took control of a clear-out attempt at the top of the Eagles' goal box. Flores weaved her way through multiple defenders before beating the goalie and putting the ball in the lower left hand corner of the net, giving the Knights a 1-0 lead with 26:20 to play in the half. Both teams had chances to score over the remaining minutes of the opening period, but were denied. The score remained the same through halftime.
In the second half, the Eagles came out rejuvenated and began to put more pressure on the Thomas Dale back line. Thomas Dale freshman Anna Crawford played a big role in shutting down attacks early. However, the visitors were finally able to break through with 29:10 remaining in the half. Mills Godwin received a free kick about halfway between the 18 yard box and midfield. The ball was served into the box where Ellen Upton was able to get her head on the ball. Upton sent the ball to keeper Becca Wright’s left, but Wright moved to the right, allowing the ball to find the back of the net and even the score.
The final 29 minutes of regulation went without a game-changing goal. Then two five-minute overtime periods passed. Then two-minute golden-goal overtime periods went by. Neither team could score or get a significant run at the net, sending the game into a penalty kick session. It was then that Kabler made a major change. Instead of his going with his starting goalie, Wright, in the net, he went with Piner.
“I don’t think PKs comes down to being a good goalie,” Kabler said. “It’s how fast you can react to something and how fast you can spring and she’s the springiest on the team.”
With Lee Ann Zerull, Katty Crawford, Sarah Schrader, Anna Crawford and Piner as shooters, the Knights set out to top the Eagles. Zerull made the first shot, giving the home team an early lead. The lead was compounded by a miss by Godwin’s first shooter and keeper, Jessie Ashworth. When Katty’s shot was blocked, Godwin’s Sarah Bellotti evened things up. Schrader and Anna made their shots for Thomas Dale and Catherine Coggeshall and Alayna Vaughn each responded for Mills Godwin, evening the shots up at three a piece. It was then that Piner came through the most. The sophomore found the back of the net as the fifth shooter, the made a diving stop to her right on Lauren Abraham's shot attempt to give the Lady Knights the victory.
The victory pushed Thomas Dale into the tournament’s semifinals (played yesterday after deadline) against Midlothian. The Trojans defeated Atlee 5-0 to advance to the next round. For a full report of the game, played at Cosby High School, check Saturday’s issue.