Knights battle to draw in playoff rematch

MERCER, Pa. – In a rematch of last year’s D-10 quarterfinals, the Eisenhower Lady Knights and the Mercer Mustangs played to a 1-1 tie.

It was obvious both teams wanted the win with each of them playing strong possession and immediate high pressure to win the ball back. Mercer started the scoring just one minute into the first half on a long shot from Arielle Reiser that Faith Johnson deflected allowing Julia Balaski to follow the shot and bury the ball in the net.

For the next 39 minutes of the half, the Knights limited the Mustangs to seven shots that were well-handled by the Eisenhower defense and Johnson in goal.

The second half, the Knights came out slowly, but quickly recovered and started playing their possession game and threatening the Mercer defense.

Many more opportunities were created by quick passing in the midfield and short through balls that allowed forwards Leah Peterson and Cassie Smelko to pepper Mercer goalie Bailey Grossman.

With four minutes left in regulation play, the short passes resulted in Madison Mohney finding space to take a shot from just outside the left corner of the 18-yard box. The shot was a high chip over the goalie resulting in the 1-1 end score for regulation between the Knights and the Mustangs.

The first overtime was exciting, with both teams trading possession resulting in no real chances for either team to score. With only 10 minutes left to decide a winner, both teams came out fierce and ready to fight for the game.

Mercer had two corners early in the overtime period that the Knights’ defense stood strong against.

The first real threat from the Knights came from Cassie Smelko as she received a well-played ball from Peterson. Grossman again came up with a big save to keep the game going. The Knights threatened one more time late in the period as Ellie Strausser sent a corner kick to the box that Grossman knocked down. Katie Elmquist was lying in wait and tried to get a body on it, but somehow Grossman was able to get a hold of the ball right on the goal line preventing the score.

The Knights are back in action Monday against Port Allegheny at Eisenhower. Game time is 4:15.

“Although I would have preferred to come home with the win, I could not be prouder of the aggressive well-controlled play,” said Eisenhower coach Diana Elmquist. “These girls are proving they are a force to be reckoned with and we are looking forward to a strong season.”

Added assistant coach Alex Johnson: “It was really great to see strong performances off the bench from Zoie Olsen, Madison Mohney, Bella Marino, Bekah Billstone, and Megan Strausser. The continued effort to find varsity playing time by all the girls is exciting.”