Wind, fatigue posed challenge for Deer Lakes boys in PIAA opening round
The first word A.J. Dorman used to describe his feeling after Tuesday’s state boys soccer playoff opener didn’t convey his exhilaration after scoring the double-overtime goal to give Deer Lakes a 1-0 win. Nor did it reveal his excitement for the Lancers’ continued postseason run.
No, Dorman had a more tangible thought.
“Tired,” Dorman said with a grin after Deer Lakes’ PIAA Class AA first-round victory over District 10 champion Fairview in Erie, the Lancers’ first state playoff win in their first state playoff game.
Virtually every Deer Lakes player who got into the game could agree with that assessment, particularly after battling high winds and a strong Fairview team for nearly 100 minutes before Dorman put the game-winning goal into the back of the net just over four minutes into the second overtime period.
“Emotions were high going into it because this is our first state game,” senior goalkeeper Jesse Greyshock said. “It was 100 minutes, it was very tough, the wind out here was very unpredictable so you never knew how the game was going to turn. But we really fought through those tough halves and all the way through the second overtime, but we were able to get the win out.”
Playing 80 regulation minutes and nearly 20 minutes of extra time took a lot out of the players, but the Lancers -- perhaps fortified by a pregame meal of Jimmy John’s on the two-hour bus ride to Erie -- gutted out the victory.
“It’s exhausting trying to get up and down this field, especially with the cold conditions,” Dorman said. “It’s nothing but hard on your lungs. It’s rough. It takes a toll on your body.”
Deer Lakes (19-1-1), the third-place team from the WPIAL, expected to face some difficult opponents in the PIAA playoffs, but the wind, which gusted to 40 miles per hour at Erie’s Dollinger Field, provided a stiff challenge of its own.
The Lancers played with the wind at their backs in the first half, but they battled against it in the second half and first overtime period before getting the benefit of it again in the second extra period.
“I was talking to some of the (Fairview) kids, (and) they even said this wind, they don’t even play in it,” Dorman said. “It’s very unpredictable. You could shoot a ball and it can go 10 feet over, it can go right 10 feet. It’s (a) very unpredictable atmosphere. That just made the game all the harder.”
At times, the game had a sense of deja vu -- and a bad sense at that -- for Deer Lakes. The Lancers controlled possession and held a heavy shots advantage against Fairview, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. A first-half goal by Devin Murray was disallowed because of an offsides call, and Dorman hit the inside of the post with a shot in the second half.
But Deer Lakes, which experienced a similar offensive frustration in a 1-0 WPIAL semifinal loss to Shady Side Academy, stuck with it and eventually got Dorman’s game-winner.
Dorman’s description of teammate Ronan Renter’s pass was tongue-in-cheek -- ”(He) played a, we’ll say, a good ball; it might have been accidental,” Dorman said -- but the shot found its home to keep Deer Lakes’ school-record season going.
“I think honestly once we were eliminated and the possibility of a WPIAL championship was (gone), that’s kind of out of sight, out of mind,” Deer Lakes coach Jordan Wiegand said. “There’s something much bigger here to play for now. (The WPIAL title) was not a goal anymore, and our focus shifts to a state championship. We’re not just in it to win one game. We want to keep competing and keep battling.”
That starts Saturday, with a PIAA quarterfinal game against WPIAL runner-up Quaker Valley at 3 p.m. at North Allegheny.
″(There’s) nothing our team can’t do because we’re very conditioned and always ready for the challenge,” Greyshock said. “We’re never going to back down.”