MECHANICSBURG — Friday marked a fitting sendoff for the most prolific goalscorer in Southern Columbia girls soccer history and her highly-decorated classmates.
Loren Gehret scored four goals and assisted on another as the Tigers defeated Freedom Area 5-3 at Eagle View Middle School to win their third consecutive Class 1A state title.
“She’s insane,” Southern Columbia senior Sophie Shadle said of Gehret. “She proves herself over and over again, and proves everyone who doubts her wrong. I’m going to miss playing with her. She is always giving 110%. She is always being a selfless person, and she’s an amazing teammate.”
Gehret, who is headed to Monmouth to play college soccer, ends her career with a program-record 140 goals. The four she scored Friday were among the most important.
The Tigers (18-6-1) faced a one-goal deficit midway through the first half. Gehret tied the score with just less than 10 minutes to go before halftime when she drilled a 26-yard free kick off the underside of the crossbar and across the goal line to tie the game. Just more than 4:30 later, Gehret gave the Tigers the lead for good.
Jadyn Jankowski won the ball away from two Freedom players and passed to Gehret, who cut toward the center of the field and ripped a 35-yard shot that skipped into the net.
“We really kept the pressure up on their defense really well,” Gehret said. “Everyone was going balls to the wall, just playing as hard as we can, giving 100% effort, winning the ball out of the air, keeping up the intensity.”
Gehret’s two first-half goals followed the Southern Columbia game plan perfectly. The Tigers wanted to put pressure on Freedom freshman goalkeeper Trinity Vojtko.
“The coaches told us before the game to try to put everything on frame,” Gehret said. “The coaches told us to just shoot low and hard.”
Southern Columbia doubled its lead just 26 seconds into the second half. Shadle bulled her way through a pair of defenders along the end line, and found Gehret open in the center of the net for an easy finish.
“Sometimes, I just get a little mad,” Shadle said with a laugh. “I use my body as much as I can.”
That two-goal second-half cushion gave the Tigers a bit of breathing room, but there were some tense moments. Southern Columbia goalie Quinn Johnston made five saves in the win, and three were diving stops on second-half breakaways.
“Quinn was just crazy; she played awesome,” Gehret said. “She was running out on balls and making plays. She knew when to come out and when to stay in. Our defense was making plays. It was a great team win.”
After one of Johnston’s diving saves, Emma Genners cleared a rebounded shot off the line to preserve Southern Columbia’s two-goal advantage.
Freedom (20-5) climbed back into the game midway through the second half when Shaye Bailey took advantage of a defensive miscue to score her second goal of the game. Gehret restored the two-goal lead with 7:46 to play. She won the ball near midfield and exploded past four Bulldog defenders for a breakaway goal.
“I felt comfortable after we scored so early in the second half to go up two goals for a while,” Southern Columbia senior Ava Yancoskie said. “It did get a little nerve-racking when we were only up by one, but then Loren put that last one in. Then I knew we had it, and we really had to focus on defending.”
The Tigers held on from there, and were soon celebrating their third consecutive state title, and fourth in five years.
“It’s a very exciting feeling,” Yancoskie said. “I’m so excited that we could make it here.”
This year’s title was especially gratifying as Southern Columbia counted on several new players after 10 seniors graduated from the 2021 title team.
“The last two years, I didn’t really get to play much,” senior Ava Rosko said. “It just feels so rewarding that I got to play this game. It felt so different than the last two years. Obviously, it was rewarding the last two years, but this game was even more rewarding to me.”
The Tigers struggled early in the game as the Bulldogs dominated both possession and field position for the opening 20 minutes or so. However, Southern Columbia did cash in its one early scoring chance.
Gehret sent a corner kick across the face of goal, and Yancoskie headed it into the net for a 1-0 lead 7:40 into the game.
“My head made such good hard contact with the ball, and it went right into the upper 90,” Yancoskie said. “I feel that set a really good tone for the game, and really brought up our intensity.”
Outside of that stretch, the early portion of the 10 a.m. game was controlled by Freedom.
“Morning games are sometimes rough for us; we’re sometimes sluggish in the morning,” Rosko said with a laugh. “Once we got that first goal, I think we realized we were in it to win it, and could be state champs again.”
Freedom’s Julia Mohrbacher tied the game just 91 seconds after Yancoskie’s goal, and Bailey put the Bulldogs ahead at the 21-minute mark.
“Them scoring right away was scary, and then it was back and forth,” Yancoskie said.
“For me personally, I was nervous; I was kind of getting freaked out,” Rosko said. “I realized that we just needed to calm down. If we got too worked up, it would make it even worse. We had to calm our nerves, and play our hearts out.”
From there, Gehret and the Tigers started to play the way they wanted to, and got the result they desperately wanted.
“I got to do this with all my best friends; there’s nothing like high school soccer,” Gehret said.