Fourth time is the charm for Zephs
Coaches will tell you that it’s tough to beat a team four times in one season. Parkland (16-6-0) had to feel pretty good about its chances of doing that against Whitehall Tuesday night, though, since their win streak against the Zephyrs dated back to October of 2012 when the teams tied.
The last time Parkland lost to Whitehall was back in September of 2008, a streak of 25 straight games, until Tuesday.
The Zephyrs (13-7-1) found a goal in the first half and then withstood tremendous pressure from the Parkland offense to gain a 1-0 win, a trip to the district final and a spot in the PIAA tournament, which starts next week.
“The last time we went to states we had to beat somebody four times and it was Emmaus,” said Parkland head coach Pat Birns. “And if we wanted to go to states, we had to beat somebody four times and that was kind of what we talked about this week. We just didn’t get it done tonight.”
The two teams worked their way up and down the field in the first half with Whitehall controlling much of the play. In the 21st minute of play, Whitehall’s Zachary Yenser played a ball from the midfield and Jake Gier beat a Parkland defender, firing a low shot that found its way to the back of the net for a 1-0 Whitehall lead.
“It was the tale of two halves,” Birns said. “I think the first half was probably the worst half of soccer that we played all year. We didn’t sync with each other well. We didn’t move the ball well and didn’t have any numbers around the ball.
“In the second half, they fixed it and we were all over them, but we just couldn’t get that final look.”
Parkland turned up the heat at halftime and came out pounding the ball toward the Whitehall net. The pressure forced Whitehall to drop one of its top weapons, Kresstoph Whittick, back into more of a defensive role.
With some of Whitehall’s offensive punch diverted, Parkland continued to pepper shots on senior goalkeeper Justin Mattison, who was able to turn them all away.
The Trojan onslaught continued into the final seconds of the game as they put a solid shot on goal, toward the top of the net with time running out, but Mattison was able to make a save and grab the ball and clear it from the zone just as time ran out.
Whitehall, who came into the tournament as the sixth-seed, now faces top-seeded Emmaus (20-3-0) in the district final.
The Zephyrs will be without Gier, who was given a red card and ejected from the game, meaning that he will have to serve a one-game suspension. Whitehall downed third-seeded Liberty (18-4-0) to advance to the semifinal game against Parkland.
Parkland’s roster consisted of nine seniors, but was generally a young, inexperienced team. There are 11 juniors who will move up to leadership roles for the team next season, many of whom gained a lot of experience at the varsity level this season.
“I’ve always said that we’re as good as our senior class,” explained Birns. “That means, do they grasp hold of what they’re supposed to do, can they lead the group, can the bring along the younger kids?
“This senior group is probably one of the best we’ve ever had because they did that with a young and inexperienced team and they took them under their wing. Some of the seniors were inexperienced and getting big minutes for the first time and they played well. I think they really did a good job, so hats off to them.”