DUNMORE — Southern Columbia girls soccer head coach Derek Stine walked the sidelines during Saturday’s PIAA Class 1A quarterfinal game against Montrose wearing a team jacket from the 2002 season.
Serving as a reminder of one of the most successful seasons in program history, one in which his daughter, assistant coach Jen Stine, played in, the embroidery on the coat read “district champions” and “state semifinalists.”
After the Tigers came out with a 3-0 win over the Meteors to advance to the state semis, several players made one thing crystal clear as they begin to prepare to face East Juniata on Tuesday — “state semifinalists” isn’t good enough this season.
Southern Columbia used a stout defensive effort to shut down Montrose’s leading threat, striker Maddy Gilhool, in typical Tiger fashion — as a unit.
Offensively, the Tigers seemed to find yet another piece of magic when senior defender Carly Britch captured her first-ever varsity goal four minutes into the second half to put Southern on top 2-0.
“I was just trying to get the ball in the air and give the offense a shot at it near their goal,” Britch said of the goal, which came from about 35 yards out and bounced in front of Montrose goalie Katie Puterbaugh before sailing over her head and into the top of the net. “I wasn’t trying to make a shot, but it just worked out that it went in.”
Southern played the first half against an extremely strong wind, which at times gusted enough to move balls that had been placed for direct kicks.
Nevertheless, the Tigers were able to score eight minutes into the game on a cross that sailed over Puterbaugh and was finished off the head of Maggie Morrison.
It was the only well-executed scoring play by either team, as Dunmore only managed three shots on goal, all of which were stopped by junior Rilyn Wisloski.
“Our defense is the heart of this team and they have been playing so well lately,” the goalkeeper said. “We have nine seniors on this team and we’re not ready to let them go. ... The defense I have in front of me is one of the best in the state and even this far into the playoffs they’re making things easy on me.”
Southern added its third goal of the day on a corner kick by Morgan Cole, which bounced off Puterbaugh and into the net on what can only be described as a fluke play.
Derek Stine said he was comfortable with the 1-0 lead his squad had built by halftime, especially considering the wind would be at their back in the second half.
“We did what we had to do in the first half,” he said. “You saw what their offense consisted of and we expected the majority of their plays to involve (Gilhool). We were very comfortable with that situation.”
Wisloski added, “It was basically 4-on-1 for the entire game on our side of the field. They were only sending (Gilhool) down and it made it easy for our defense to focus on her.”
Frustrations rose for the Meteors in the second half. Gilhool received a yellow card after a brief discussion with an official regarding a foul and, minutes later, Montrose head coach Jenton Esworthy was ejected from the game after shouting at officials.
Esworthy was displeased that officials would not allow him to send a player onto the field when he realized that the Meteors only had 10 players on the pitch while the ball was live. After being ejected, Esworthy walked across the field and delayed play for about a minute until he cleared the premise.
Southern Columbia will now play in a rematch of the District 4 Class 1A Championship during Tuesday’s semifinal. The Tigers lost to East Juniata, 1-0, in the regular season but won the district title, 3-2, against the Tigers from Juniata County.
Wisloski said the team gained valuable information during the district final.
“I know what to look for with their offense and I have a better idea of what lines I need to have in goal,” she said.
Britch said she is not surprised that the Tigers have made it down to the final four teams in the state.
“I think the seniors on this team knew we could get this far at the beginning of the season,” she said. “We have worked really well together and have so much talent. I’m not surprised at all.”
Southern’s head coach kept his comments short about the much anticipated semifinal match against East Juniata.
“This is it,” he said. “It’s the one we’ve been waiting for. We’ll see what happens.”