Hornets top Trojans in soccer semifinal
The Trojans came out firing thanks to a goal by junior Jackson Vanderpool less than two minutes into their District 11 semifinal game, but Emmaus responded well and finished Parkland’s season with a 3-2 win in a game played at Whitehall High School’s sports complex. Emmaus will now face Freedom in the district championship game.
Vanderpool took a feed from fellow junior Alex Wilsterman and pushed it past a diving Aidan Connolly, who was in goal for Emmaus. For the next 18 minutes the teams took each other back-and-forth without either team really gaining any momentum. With 20:41 left in the first half, things started to take a dark turn for Parkland as Emmaus got goals from Andrew Gaines and Jake Groh within a minute of each other to take a 2-1 lead.
“We didn’t respond to the first goal,” said Parkland head coach Pat Birns. “We were up and then they came back and scored and we were shell-shocked. This happened once before with this team where we didn’t know how to respond. There was probably about 10 minutes where we just shut off and they scored three goals and that was it. It was scary because we didn’t play our game.”
Just when Parkland started to mount more pressure again and seemed to be shifting the game its way, Emmaus sophomore Patrick Walsh struck again for the Hornets with 12:59 left in the first half.
“That was probably the best that I’ve seen Emmaus play against us in the first half in a long time,” said Birns. “They went side-to-side and weren’t what you’re used to seeing with Emmaus being a direct style. Their midfield controlled us and we had to control our whole shape because they just dominated us.”
Parkland came out in the second half and took control of the play early on and with 28:35 left in regulation, Vanderpool struck for a second time to cut the lead to one and make the game a much tenser battle at 3-2. Both teams had opportunities, including Parkland getting a shot off in the last minute of the game.
“We made a few adjustments in the second half, but not too much, and then we started to play our game in the second half, which was the difference,” said Birns. “They’re well coached, they know how to manage the clock and they did a good job. We just ran out of time.”
The season ends with Parkland finishing 13-7-2 in a season that was made difficult by the graduation of a number of key players from last year’s team that had 14 seniors.
Last season, Parkland won both the EPC and District 11 championships en route to a state semifinal appearance. This year’s roster has 11 seniors, but many of them didn’t have a lot of starting experience at the varsity level. There’s a strong class of 10 juniors, including Vanderpool, who stood out on the field for Parkland on Tuesday night.
In the postseason, Parkland was seeded sixth in the EPC tournament and knocked off three-seed Emmaus on the Hornets home field. Parkland then lost to eventual EPC champion and District 11 finalist Freedom in the semifinals of the conference playoffs. In districts, the Trojans came in seeded seventh and beat East Stroudsburg South before upsetting second-seed Liberty to advance to the semifinals.
“I think there are a lot of positive things to come out of here,” said Birns. “Our seniors didn’t have a lot of playing time as juniors and it’s a young group of players and they stepped up for us.”