South Park falls in PIAA Class AA girls soccer final
HERSHEY — It can be argued that Mercyhurst Prep has the best girls soccer team in the state, regardless of classification.
If nothing else, the Lakers showed they are better than any team from the WPIAL.
Sophomore midfielder Sarah Kaiser scored twice and added an assist to lead the Erie school to a 3-0 victory over South Park in the PIAA Class AA girls soccer championship game Friday at Hersheypark Stadium. The Lakers were the only team of the six girls finalists not to allow a goal in the state tournament.
“Our defense is just so great that they keep it out of our back end, and (it) creates so many opportunities for our forwards,” Kaiser said. “We have some of the greatest forwards in the state, and it just makes for a great combination.”
Kaiser scored her goals in the second half and set up the winner with 15:47 remaining in the first. She slid a perfect pass to senior Kaylin Akerly on the right side of the football end zone, and Akerly slammed it past South Park goalkeeper Sierra Davis for the only goal the Lakers (22-0-3) needed.
“I made a cutting-in run, and the pass came in to me and the goalie was coming out to me,” Akerly said. “I just threw it to the far post, and the defense must have got mixed up because nobody was on me.”
Such defensive lapses don’t usually happen to South Park (19-3-3), which allowed nine goals in its first 24 games.
“I just thought that we weren’t playing our best in the first half, and we couldn’t pass to a white shirt to save our life,” coach Shelly Thropp said. “Our first half wasn’t very good. We had time and space and just weren’t getting it done.”
This was the first time that a District 10 school won a state championship soccer match. The northwestern schools had been 0-7-1; Erie Cathedral Prep tied Strath Haven, 1-1, for a share of the 2001 Class AAA crown.
South Park knew exactly what was coming after it defeated Midd-West in the semifinals to earn its third trip to the state championship game in four seasons. The Eagles scrimmaged Mercyhurst Prep in the preseason and had to play a strong game from the start to have a chance of beating a team ranked No. 1 among small schools by the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association.
That didn’t happen.
“We controlled most of the possession in the second half, but in the first half we just didn’t play very well,” Thropp said. “I don’t know if we were scared or what, but Mercyhurst is a good team, and you have to play your best game. I just don’t think we did that in the first half.”