Zephyrs blank Bears
WHITEHALL — Day after day.
Week after week.
Month after month,
Year after year.
Like clockwork, Derek Strohl has watched his players give their all - win, lose or draw.
It was no different for the Pleasant Valley head coach in a 3-0 loss to Whitehall in the District 11 Class 4A quarterfinals on Thursday night.
“They’re a great group of girls,” said Strohl. “They listen, they work hard, we just have to move the ball faster. But I’m super proud of, one of our goals was to win the division again for the third year in a row, and we did that. And we had to battle to win that because we weren’t in first place coming down the stretch; we had to win-out.
“These girls do have a lot of fire, and they play with a lot of heart.”
The Bears (12-7-1) battled to win their third-straight Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Mountain Division title, and they showed the same fight against the Zephyrs.
Whitehall (17-3), the No. 2 seed, broke through midway through the first half when Elissar Khalil scored on an assist from Abigail Vivian to make it 1-0, an advantage that held heading into the intermission.
“It was good that it was 1-0 because we were still in the game,” said Strohl. “It was a one-goal game, we just weren’t generating enough offense, so I switched some personnel around a little bit to start the second half, and I thought in the first 10 minutes, we had two or three chances. Their goalie made some really good saves.”
Brianna Clark broke free on a run within the first two minutes of the second half, and the seventh-seeded Bears nearly converted on a header after a corner kick less than three minutes later.
Pleasant Valley had another opportunity with an indirect free kick inside the penalty box with 30:45 remaining, but was unable to cash in.
But each time, Grace Clary — who made five saves — and the Whitehall defense stood tall.
Then the Zephyrs took command.
“We like to possess the ball, we pass the ball very well, which is great,” said Zephyrs’ head coach Chris Bleam. “But the goal of possessing the ball is to spread the defense out so you can go forward. We don’t have that willingness, that desire to go forward sometimes. We were very content to just knock the ball around in the first half, and that’s why I told them at halftime, ‘Let’s get after it a little bit.’”
Whitehall pushed the tempo, and it paid dividends. Hope Millets scored on a penalty kick with 28:03 to play in the second half to push the lead to 2-0, before EPC MVP Kate Bonshak added a goal on an assist from Millets in the waning moments to set the final tally.
“For the seniors, I’ve been with them since they were eighth graders, I was their middle school coach,” said Strohl. “Like I told them after the game, I’m proud of every single one of them.
“They stuck through it, they worked hard, and they’ve pushed this team.”
NEXT ... Whitehall will play No. 3 seed Easton Tuesday in the semis.
STATS ... PV goalie Samantha Merklin stopped nine shots. The Zephyrs finished with a 12-5 edge in shots on goal, and a 6-1 advantage in corner kicks.