Late goal leads to loss in state tourney
Over the course of five postseason gamestwo in leagues and three in districtsthe Parkland boys' soccer team hadn't allowed a goal.
When the Trojans opened up play in the state tournament, the defense kept District 1's Conestoga out of goal for nearly 78 minutes.
But with a little over two minutes to play in regulation, Conestoga was able to do something that neither of the Trojans' previous five opponents could.
Approaching Parkland's goal line, Kyle Pettican found Thijs Everts in front of the Trojans' goal.
After possessing the pass and making a move, Everts's goal with 2:10 remaining gave Conestoga a 1-0 lead, a margin they would go on to win by Tuesday night in the first round of the PIAA Boys' Soccer Championships at J. Birney Crum.
"They flew down the line, and [there] was a quick cross on a ball that was close to being out of bounds," Parkland head coach Patrick Birns said. "Obviously it wasn't, and they finished."
After a scoreless first half that saw a combined five shots from both teams, Parkland opened up the second half with a number of strong opportunities on goal to take the lead.
Off a Trojan corner kick, Charlie Kile's header was on target, but Conestoga goalkeeper Will Smith was there for the jumping save that kept action scoreless early in the second half.
Nearly eight minutes later, the Trojans had arguably their best chance on goal. On a strike from over 30 yards out, a jumping Smith once again saved Diego Martinez's shot to the upper right corner of Conestoga's goal with 26 minutes to play. Martinez had another shot with just under 11 minutes to play, but that also failed to end up in the back of the net.
"In a game like this, that's what it comes down to," Birns said. "Their sophomore keeper came up with big saves."
The Trojans' defense showed why its been able to keep opponents out of goal in recent games. With roughly 8:30 to play and Conestoga's Nate Monsell looking for a shot on goal, Trojan goalkeeper Evan Bleiler came out of goal to block Monsell's shot.
When a Conestoga ball remained in front of the Trojans' goal with under six minutes to play, the defensive line held its own in not allowing a shot on goal to develop.
"Kyle Stengel really stepped up as a senior, and really did a good job of holding down the defense," Birns said. "That's been the key. He stepped up as a captain and really led this group with direction and where to go. I'm really happy with what he did."
It was the first time since the 2008 season that Parkland reached the state tournament.
Despite coming up just short in their state appearance, the Trojans put together a season that included both league and district titles, a feat that only five Parkland teams have been able to accomplish. And only two of those seasons came in the LVC's existence.
They were able to do so after losing 15 seniors from last season's team.
"This group came together as a team at the right time," Birns said. "They really gelled and believed in each other."