The Neshaminy boys’ team and Pennridge girls’ squad will both play for a PIAA 4A state title on Saturday in Hershey. Check back for a recap of both games.
A pair of SOL programs with a legacy of excellence on the soccer pitch will be playing in Saturday’s PIAA 4A state championship games in Hershey. The Pennridge girls’ team is making its second trip in three years to Hershey. The Rams – who fell to Souderton 1-0 in overtime in their last trip - will face District 7 champion North Allegheny at HersheyPark Stadium at 4 p.m.
The Neshaminy boys’ squad is looking to add to its program’s storied history when the Redskins take on Seneca Valley on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Since 1968, Neshaminy has won 22 conference titles and – including this year’s District One 4A title – nine district crowns. The Redskins are looking to add the program’s fourth state banner, their first since 1994.
For the players, the trip to Hershey is the realization of a goal set a long time ago.
“Sophomore year it was a similar group of guys as the starting group this year,” senior Ryan Schoeneman said. “We were all together, and we were playing together every season. Sophomore year we were always talking about senior year.
“We were like, ‘Senior year is our year – we’re going to make the state finals.’ It was always in our head. Once it came to this year we said, ‘We have to get it done, we’ve been saying it since sophomore year.’ Now we finally got there, and we have to finish the job.”
Junior Connor Steele was a freshman on that varsity and recalls those conversations.
“I had no idea what playoffs even were really,” said Steele, who scored the game-winner in Neshaminy’s 2-1 state semifinal overtime win over Emmaus. “We’ve made it this far, and the realization starts to set in – it’s like ‘This can actually happen now.’
“This core group of players has just been working with each other for years now, and we know what each other is going to do when they get the ball, so it’s easier to predict what will happen, so you know where to be, when to get there. We just have trust in each other. It’s like a brotherhood. That might sound corny, but that’s exactly what it is. Soccer is nothing without a team.”
Making the trip to Hershey especially significant is that it came in a season that was in jeopardy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Coming into this year we didn’t know what was going to happen because of Corona virus, but we were saying, ‘No matter what, let’s put it all out there, get what we can,’” Schoeneman said. “It happened the season went through, and we got lucky the season actually happened. We just got lucky this year.”
Coach Tom Foley credited the seniors for their unwavering dedication.
“They have always been talking about going to Hershey since they were sophomores,” the Redskins’ coach said. “We always tell them – you never know what’s going to happen. Just getting to states is a privilege. Anything can happen in states.
“Hopefully, everything works out for them. They certainly worked hard since day one even when we were in limbo and didn’t know if we were going to have a season or not, but they came out and did the voluntary workouts. They always had 30-40 kids there. Hats off to the kids – they just worked and worked and worked, and they like being around each other. They certainly deserve everything they’ve got this year.”
#1-1 NESHAMINY vs. #7-1 SENECA VALLEY (HersheyPark Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 21, 6:30 p.m.)
- 13-1-2 overall
- 6-0-2 SOL Patriot Division champions
- District One 4A champion
- 12 shutouts in 16 games
- Redskins scored eight goals in first eight games and 19 in last eight.
- Key players include senior Gavin Rowan (MF), senior Cole Jackson (F), junior Jose Rivera (F), senior Lou Salmi (D), junior AJ Rivera (D), senior Mike Albarran (D), senior Trevor Rush (GK), junior Connor Steele (MF), senior Ryan Schoeneman (D/MF) and junior Richie Faul (D/MF)
- Only loss at hands of PCL power La Salle (0-3).
How they got here: In Tuesday’s state opener, Neshaminy downed District 11 champion Emmaus 2-1 in overtime. Connor Steele scored the golden goal. AJ Rivera scored midway through the second half to knot the score.
In the District One title game, Neshaminy and 12th-seeded Pennridge battled to a scoreless tie after double overtime, setting the stage for penalty kicks. The Redskins defeated the Rams 4-2 in PKs with goalie Trevor Rush, who had a shutout in goal, connecting on the PK that clinched the win. Jason Spencer, Mike Albarran and Ryan Schoeneman also converted their penalty kicks.
- 16-1-1 overall
- WPIAL 4A champion
- District 7 champion
- Raiders, who are making their second trip to the state title contest, fell to Central Bucks East 2-0 in the 2015 state title game.
- Coach George Williams won his 300th game this season – his 26th year at the helm.
- Raiders bring a 13-game winning streak into Saturday’s state title game.
How they got here: In Tuesday’s state semifinal, Seneca Valley edged District 3 champion Cumberland Valley 1-0. Junior Nathan Prex scored the game-winner. Senior Adam Davies earned the shutout in goal.
In a state quarterfinal game, Seneca Valley notched a 6-0 win over District 6 champion State College. Zach Lavelle scored a pair of goals while Beaux Lizewski, Nate Eastgate, Connor Schmidt and Jonathan Pruce each had one goal.
In the WPIAL 4A title game, Seneca Valley rallied from a 3-1 halftime deficit to eke out a 4-3 double overtime win over Peters Township. Sophomore midfielder Beaux Lizewski completed his hat trick with the golden goal with 4:40 remaining in the second OT. Nate Eastgate also scored a goal.
#1-1 PENNRIDGE vs. #7-1 NORTH ALLEGHENY (HersheyPark Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 21, 4 p.m.)
- 15-1-0 overall
- 9-1-0 SOL
- SOL Colonial champion
- The Rams have not been shut out this season and have outscored their opponents 18-5 in the postseason.
- Senior Lindsey DeHaven, a High Point recruit, leads a Hydra-like midfield that fuels the Rams attack but also works hard for possession and ball-winning. Freshman Liv Grenda is an established scoring threat with good ball skills while Riley Hepler, Zoe Sabol, Jess Levush and Raina Adelman bring different looks to the pitch.
- Attack led by junior Leah Malone flanked by young but energetic players like freshmen Tori Angelo and Sophie Craig, sophomore Joey Tomlinson and junior Riley Hepler.
- Stout defense has allowed multiple goals just once, anchored by keeper Sierra Shaeffer. Freshmen Anna Croyle and Casey Malone along with seniors Kera Dam, Cady McKean and Lauren Atchley make up a back line that also contributes offensively.
- Winners of eight straight since only loss of season to CB West (2-1) on Oct. 15.
How they got here: In Tuesday’s state semifinal, Pennridge twice came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat District 11 champion Parkland 4-3 in overtime. Freshman Liv Grenda scored the game-winner. It was her second goal of the game that featured a pair of high-powered attacks. Lindsey DeHaven and Cady McKean each added a goal.
In the district title game, Pennridge defeated fifth-seeded Spring-Ford 2-0. Juniors Riley Hepler and Leah Malone each scored a goal.
North Allegheny Tigers
- 13-2 overall
- WPIAL champion
- District 7 champion
- First trip to the state title game
- The Tigers are led by Pitt recruit Sarah Schupansky, who has scored 24 goals this season.
- Schupansky and sophomore Lucia Wells have scored 12 of their team’s 14 goals in the postseason.
- Defense anchored by Olivia Mark, Sophia Spano, Kena Shannon, Tulasi Syamala and goalie Megan Miller.
- Tigers have outscored their opponents 66-15 with five shutouts – four in the last six games.
- North Allegheny takes a nine-game winning streak into Saturday’s state title game.
How they got here: In Tuesday’s state semifinal, North Allegheny defeated District 3 champion Cumberland Valley 1-0. Senior Sarah Schupansky scored the game-winner with 22 minutes remaining in regulation on just the Tigers’ second shot of the game. Goalie Megan Miller recorded the shutout in goal.
In a state quarterfinal contest, North Allegheny rolled to a 5-1 win over District 10 champion McDowell. Sophomore Lucia Wells led the Tigers with two goals and an assist and was named Player of the Game. Sarah Schupansky added a pair of goals, and Ally Ruiz added a single goal.
In the WPIAL title game, North Allegheny edged Butler 2-1 in double overtime. Sophomore Lucia Wells scored the goal late in the second OT. Sarah Schupansky scored in regulation.