Monday, January 22, 2018
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Pioneers stop Mounts


Travis Jones knew it back in August, even if his players didn't.
 
There was something special about the hand he'd been dealt.
 
"The guys' (playing) ability and their sense of caring for each other," Lampeter-Strasburg's first-year boys' soccer coach said, explaining his preseason optimism. "They just love being out here together, and I knew that the very first time I saw them."
 
The Pioneers are likely loving it a whole lot more these days.
 
Getting the game-winner from Matt Wright 13:41 into the second half, Lampeter-Strasburg remained undefeated with a 2-1 L-L League Section Two victory Wednesday night at Ephrata.
 
In addition to maintaining their two-point lead over Manheim Central in the Section Two standings with three regular-season games remaining, the Pioneers (10-0-1 L-L, 13-0-1 overall) also clinched an L-L playoff berth with Wednesday's win.
 
L-S will play at Manheim Central (9-0-2, 12-1-2) Monday in a game that could go a long way in determining whether the Pioneers can capture the program's first section title since 2008.
 
"We weren't expecting it to go this well," Wright said. "We're just really happy that it is.
 
"Everyone is doing their job. Nobody is trying to do it all on their own. And it's just clicking right now."
 
As it was against Ephrata (5-5-1, 6-7-1), which battled admirably despite being without five starters, forcing the Mountaineers to play four freshman for virtually the entire game.
 
In the end, Ephrata was only outshot 9-7, but L-S held a 5-1 edge in corners and created eight quality scoring chances to the Mounts' three.
 
One of those corners -- delivered by Wright -- resulted in the Pioneers' first goal 17:11 into the contest, when Sondre Soderholm got above the traffic in front of the net and redirected a header inside the left post for a 1-0 L-S lead.
 
But Ephrata countered 3:25 into the second half compliments of Chris Hershberger, who got behind the defense and into a one-on-one situation with L-S goalie Jake Klecko, before chipping a rainbow inside the right post to tie it at 1.
 
"I was extremely pleased with our effort and what we brought to the table," Ephrata coach Rob Deininger said. "And with (Mounts goalie) Kole (DeHaven) back there, we're always in a game."
 
DeHaven finished with seven saves, several of which were huge down the stretch.
 
But the shot he couldn't get to with 26:19 left in the match turned out to be the difference.
 
After taking a Sam Solin feed on the left side of the box, Wright centered it with a few touches before uncorking a bullet that was knocked down by an Ephrata defender.
 
But when the rebound fell right back at Wright's feet, he drilled a laser inside the right post and past the diving, outstretched hands of DeHaven for the game-winner.
 
"I got lucky that it came right back to me," Wright said. "And I just finished it."
 
Simultaneously, Wright also may have finished Ephrata's chances at getting a District Three playoff berth.
 
On the outside looking in at this point with regard to the power rankings, the Mountaineers will likely need to win their last three games to have any chance of earning a spot in the Class AAA district field.
 
There's no such worry for L-S, which was fifth in the latest Class AAA ranking.
 
Not that the Pioneers consume themselves with those kinds of things.
 
"We really don't talk about records," Jones said. "They just love being together, and it's more about that than anything (coming up) in the near future."
 
Seems to be working so far.