Avonworth girls soccer ousts Deer Lakes in Class AA consolation
It was a win-or-go-home scenario Tuesday at Mars Athletic Complex for the Deer Lakes and Avonworth girls soccer teams.
Only one spot remained in the PIAA Class AA tournament as the Antelopes and Lancers battled after both suffered semifinal losses three days earlier.
Avonworth jumped to an early two-goal lead, and Deer Lakes rallied to lead at halftime. But the No. 5 Antelopes had some comeback magic of their own in the second half.
Junior Anna Igims scored with four minutes left in regulation to break a tie and lift Avonworth to a 4-3 victory.
“This win is so special for our team,” said freshman forward Ava Wert, who scored twice, including the tying goal with 12:41 left.
“It’s only the second time the Avonworth soccer girls have made it to states. We were down 3-2 but just knew we had to come back and win this game. We just couldn’t give up.”
Avonworth (14-6-2) will take on the District 10 champion in the PIAA first round Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Villa Maria and Mercyhurst Prep will play for the District 10 title Wednesday evening.
“I told the girls at halftime that with the way Deer Lakes was playing a physical game, we had to go fight and battle and give everything we had,” Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan said. “We changed the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 to put more players into the middle, and the girls just fought and fought. They dug deep and got the result they wanted.”
Deer Lakes, the No. 3 seed and the Section 2 champion, concludes its season at 17-3-1. The Lancers were denied their first trip to the PIAA playoffs since 2008.
“It was an incredible season for the girls,” Deer Lakes coach Frank Accetta said. “I think when we have time to process (the season), we will fully realize just what an amazing job they did. The team is young, and they will learn from all of this.”
Ava Wert started the process that led to the winner as she made a long run down the left wing. She lost control of the ball as Deer Lakes goalkeeper Gabby Weber came out to make a play.
But Igims took control of the loose ball and kicked it into the open net.
“The goalkeeper came out and was trying to get it on the ground,” Mahan said. “It just popped loose, and (Igims) was right there to make the play. She is such a scrappy player who works so hard. I am just so happy for her.”
It’s been a special past week for Igims, also a member of the Avonworth girls cross country team. She finished fifth overall in the girls AA race at last week’s WPIAL championships and helped her team earn an automatic berth to states.
Avonworth had only two shots on goal in the second half, and the first one was Wert’s tally that knotted the game at 3-3. She was the recipient of a long free-kick pass into the box from senior defender Jessica Lamperski.
“We got two scrappy goals in the second half, and that’s what it takes sometimes to win these type of games,” Mahan said.
Deer Lakes senior captain and defender Kiera Cutright suffered a leg injury on Wert’s goal and had to be assisted off the field. Freshman forward Maddy Boulos exited the game about a minute later with a leg injury.
“We were missing our big defender (on the winning goal), and they took advantage of it,” Accetta said. “I don’t blame them. That’s what good teams do.”
It was a sister act in the first half as Ava Wert and her sister, senior Abby Wert, scored five minutes apart in the first 10 minutes of the game to give Avonworth a 2-0 lead.
Deer Lakes battled back behind Maddy Boulos and her sister, sophomore Abigail Boulos.
After a couple of close calls for the Lancers, including a goal that was waved off on a foul, Maddy Boulos got Deer Lakes on the board as she cleaned up a rebound of a free kick into the box from Lily Litrun with 27 minutes to play in the first half.
The Boulos sisters then gave the Lancers the lead with goals 30 seconds apart in the waning minutes of the half.
Abigail scored with 2:40 on the clock, and Maddy followed up with 2:10 to play.
“It was tough to lose this one, but full marks go to Avonworth,” Accetta said. “They came out and battled and found a way. Both teams played really hard.”