DANVILLE — As Southern girls soccer continues to advance round after round in this year’s playoffs, it seems as if nothing has phased them. That was definitely the case during a 5-0 win over Moravian Academy in the first round of the PIAA Class 1A playoffs Tuesday at Danville High School.
The Tigers and Lions contested each others passes at the beginning of the game, but Southern broke through about 15 minutes in and never let up.
With 26:14 left in the first half, midfielder Morgan Cole dished the ball to Kari Cambria, who deposited it into the net.
Southern controlled the pacing of the contest and made it tough for the Lions to generate good passes inside. There were plenty of times where Moravian Academy would retrieve the ball and push it into Southern territory, but the Lions did not have offensive players down field to make a play. The Tigers would have more than enough players on defense to combat each of the Lions’ offensive surges.
With 7:46 remaining in the first half, Morgan Marks buried a Sami Palacz pass into the cage, handing Southern a 2-0 advantage.
Southern head coach Derek Stine thought building a 2-0 lead was a huge benefit for his club.
“That was big. You get a little bit of a cushion with a two or three goal lead and you can kind of start subbing some people in, getting some people that are banged up a little bit out. It helps. It helps a lot,” Stine said.
Palacz tacked on another goal for the Tigers with 4:18 left and the team would enter halftime with a commanding 3-0 lead over Moravian Academy.
Marks knew her team had to make some adjustments versus the Lions. The junior forward also liked her teammates’ speed versus Moravian Academy’s defense.
“They (Lions) had quick backs, so right away Kari and I, up top, we kind of knew that we would have a hard time taking them on, so we had to see each other and see the seams because they were a flat four backs so we had to make sure we would get between those seams,” Marks said.
Marks continued, “We would also see Morgan Cole and Tori (Romania). It was a really good day to see them, because since they were flat we got to get behind the defense and Morgan Cole and Tori have so much speed, so it was so easy for them to get behind.”
The power surge continued for the Tigers in the second half as Marks ran wild on a breakaway goal with 30:55 to go in the second half.
Marks darted from near the left sideline toward the goal and juked a Moravian defender and sped to her left before drilling the ball into the cage past Lions goalkeeper Anna Mayer, making the game 4-0 in favor of Southern.
Before Marks scored her second goal of the game, she noticed a large amount of open real estate in the box and made it her mission to take advantage of Mayer being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I got down to the corner and I saw that she (Mayer) was at the near post. So, I saw the far post wide open and I just saw the angle and I kicked it across. It somehow went in,” Marks added.
Marks said that her squad kept the pedal to the medal, because it was important to finish strong versus the Lions.
“At halftime we said how the game wasn’t over yet and anything could happen. We scored three goals in the first half. They could do it in the second half. I just knew that we had to get our momentum up again, so I think once I scored we got our momentum up and we were like, ‘Hey, no let ups now.’ From there we held it together pretty well,” Marks said.
Hailey Ciocco put the cherry on top of Southern’s scoring outburst with 16:56 remaining. First, the junior rushed along the left sideline and flew toward the net. Then, Ciocco punished the Lions defense as she drilled the ball into the right side of the cage, bringing the Tigers a 5-0 lead.
Stine and his team did not know much about the Lions before Tuesday’s game, but it did not matter. The coach said that it can be a negative to learn too much about an opponent.
“We didn’t know much about them (Moravian Academy). We knew a couple odds and ends things. We had found some stuff out. We pretty much have to take one game at a time. We honestly don’t want to know a whole lot about somebody. That’s when the frustration starts and nerves start. We just play them like any other team,” Stine said.
Southern will face Montrose in the PIAA Class 1A quarterfinals on Saturday at a time and place to be determined.
East Juniata, which Southern Columbia defeated in the District 4 Class 1A championship, won its opening match against Camp Hill 4-3.