Deer Lakes reaches 1st PIAA title game with win over Shady Side Academy
Michael Sullivan predicted in preseason camp he would score a goal on a throw-in goal at some point during the year.
It came at the perfect moment.
Sullivan’s throw deflected off a Shady Side Academy defender and into the back of the net with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining, giving Deer Lakes a 2-1 come-from-behind victory in a PIAA Class AA semifinal thriller Tuesday night at Mars Athletic Complex.
“I started picking them up probably the second game of the season, and from there, we progressed off of it and started running them like a corner (kick),” Sullivan said. “It paid off tonight.
“ … I told coach I was going to score a goal off a throw-in before the end of the year, and not a better game to do it than the state semifinals.”
Deer Lakes (21-1-1) advances to the PIAA championship game for the first time in school history, where the Lancers will play District 3 runner-up Fleetwood at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey.
The Lancers trailed their Section 2-AA rival for a good portion of the second half until Colton Spence scored the tying goal with 6:10 remaining, paving the way for Sullivan’s winner.
“It takes a lot of grit, and it shows what kind of team we are,” Sullivan said. “We never stop running. We were down (with) six minutes left, and we never stopped. We kept running, we kept putting a sprint in for each of our teammates, and it was great to see. I can’t wait for Hershey.”
Deer Lakes also avenged its 1-0 loss to Shady Side Academy from the WPIAL semifinals. Despite missing on some early opportunities Tuesday, the Lancers kept shooting and eventually found the back of the net twice in the final seven minutes.
“I thought both teams battled very, very hard,” Deer Lakes coach Jordan Wiegand said. “I can’t be too disappointed coming out on the right side of it this time after that semifinal. I’ll take it.”
Just as in the three prior games this season between Deer Lakes and Shady Side Academy — one win for each side, with a tie thrown in — the teams battled through a physical, tightly contested game. Wiegand and Shady Side Academy counterpart Ed Ellsworth predicted a close matchup, and they got it.
Shady Side Academy (14-7-1), which won its second consecutive WPIAL championship earlier this month, was denied its first trip to the state finals.
“It’s just how the game goes sometimes,” Ellsworth said. “These seniors changed the culture of soccer at Shady Side Academy to a championship culture. We’ve played in the last weekend the last three years. We’ve played in the WPIAL final the last three years. We’re the two-time champion.
“We lost this game, we’re a little bit devastated about it, but at the end of the day, these boys have changed this program indelibly.”
After getting shut out by Shady Side Academy in the WPIAL semifinals, Deer Lakes came out firing. A.J. Dorman hit the crossbar with a shot in the first 30 seconds of the game, one of several strong chances the Lancers had in the opening 40 minutes. Shady Side Academy keeper Bruce David made six saves in the first half, and Deer Lakes’ Jesse Greyshock answered with three stops.
Shady Side Academy took the lead just over four minutes into the second half. Wally Navid, who scored a hat trick in the PIAA quarterfinals, beat a pair of Deer Lakes defenders and put a sharp-angle shot past Greyshock.
Zach Conti played the first 18 minutes of the second half in goal for Shady Side before David re-entered. Conti made three saves, and David finished with 10.
Greyshock made a crucial save to keep the deficit at one goal when he came charging out of his net to deny Max Farner on a breakaway. The Deer Lakes senior finished with seven saves.
It remained 1-0 until just over six minutes remained, when Spence got his head on a Nick Caro free kick and put it across the goal line.
“We talked about it in the locker room. We knew we had to compose ourselves,” Spence said. “We knew it was going to get frustrating. We just had to work the ball around, just get it in their end and keep on pounding it into their end.”
Deer Lakes kept pushing, and eventually Sullivan — who was trying long throw-ins all game — made his preseason prediction come true.
“We’ve had a long season up to this point, but I believe him,” Wiegand said. “If he says that, we’ll go with that.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.