Conestoga boys emotional after winning state soccer crown
HERSHEY, Pa. - The Conestoga boys' soccer team had been there before. A deadlocked game at the half. A scoreless battle.
HERSHEY, Pa. - The Conestoga boys' soccer team had been there before.
A deadlocked game at the half.
A scoreless battle.
A contest in which the chances came, but the ball didn't end up in the back of the net right away.
The close ones. The Pioneers know a little something about the close ones.
After all, they have played 14 one-goal games this season.
Make it 15.
None of the previous tight matches counted more than the one on Saturday night, when Conestoga captured the PIAA Class 4A state championship by defeating Elizabethtown, 1-0, in HersheyPark Stadium.
"It's emotional," senior Blaise Milanek said. "It means everything to me that this entire year, everything we've been working on has finally paid off."
For more than 60 minutes, the Pioneers (25-1) played their brand of soccer - despite the sleet and rain that caused slippery field conditions.
One-two touch passing. Clinical movement off the ball. Sending runners in behind the defense.
It was still 0-0.
That is, until Nick Jennings got the ball about midfield after an Elizabethtown turnover. He took it down the left side and slotted it to Chris Donovan, who was waiting inside the box.
Donovan didn't hesitate.
"It just fell to Nick and he laid it off to me and all I tried to do was put it on frame," Donovan said. "I was astonished that no one was within a five-foot radius of me.
"After [the goal], all I wanted to do was run over to my teammates on the sidelines."
The goal was the result of that 'Stoga soccer brand, emphasized by poise and composure amid adversity.
"In the second half we are used to it being tied or coming back," Jennings said.
"None of these guys get nervous when things aren't going our way. We just keep playing how we play."
On the ride out - a trip that started at 3 p.m. - Milanek said the team was mostly silent, understandably so, he added, as the players prepareed for what was ahead of them.
They had their headphones in, as they "got in the zone" to mentally get ready.
"It's hard to put into words," Milanek said. "I know that hour-and-a-half bus ride on the way back is going to be the most fun I've ever had."
Before Saturday, Milanek and his teammates had never played in a state championship game before.
Now they can say they won.
Conestoga 0 1 - 1
Elizabethtown 0 0 - 0
Goal: C-Chris Donovan.
Saves: C-Luke Smith 1; E-Austin Denlinger 15.