How sweet it is!
Lady Dragons beat Meadville in overtime for first D-10 title
WATERFORD, Pa. –As a kicker, there are times you just know when you’ve nailed a kick.
With the number of long-distance kicks, in both soccer and football, Sawyer Mohney has taken over the last two years, she had a pretty good feeling about the one she fired 2:20 into overtime Wednesday. She wasn’t sure just how good it was until the whistle blew and her teammates mobbed her near midfield as the Warren girls soccer team celebrated its first-ever District 10 title with a 3-2 overtime win over Meadville at Carm Bonito Field.
“I didn’t realize it was in at first,” Mohney said. “It’s surreal. This is something we’ve dreamed about and as a team, we’ve wanted it for so long.”
“This was four years in the making,” Warren coach Jeremy Bickling added. “It feels amazing.”
To get the title, the Dragons (14-4-1) had to overcome one of their biggest rivals. Warren and Meadville (13-7) have met in the postseason for four straight years. While the previous meetings were all in the district semifinals, where the Bulldogs claimed victory in 2016 and 2017 and the Dragons won last season, the stakes at Fort LeBoeuf Wednesday were so much higher.
Warren spent most of the regular season overcoming injuries to key players. They got one of those players back for the title match and she wasted little time making her presence felt.
At 7:24, senior MJ Fadale took a crossing pass from Ella Ordiway and put a header past Meadville keeper Riley Olson to give Warren a 1-0 lead.
“It felt really good to get back out on the pitch,” Fadale said. “I knew I needed to make an impact tonight.”
Bickling said getting Fadale back in the lineup provided a big lift for his team.
“It’s like a football team getting its star quarterback back,” he said.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net for the remainder of the half and the Dragons led 1-0 at halftime. They knew the match was far from over.
“This is a tough team,” Fadale said.
The Bulldogs came out pressing to start the second half and needed just five minutes to get the equalizer.
Meadville got a corner kick at 44:59. The ball came near the goal on the initial kick and a number of players got their head or foot on it. The ball eventually bounced to Alayna Zieziula’s foot and she fired it in the near side to make it 1-1.
Warren retook the lead 13 minutes later.
The Dragons took possession deep in their own end and methodically passed the ball upfield. A scrum in front found the ball toggling back and forth between Warren and Meadville players. Mikaala Deppen gained control near the center and put the ball in the near corner for a 2-1 advantage.
The Bulldogs got it back to even a minute later.
Meadville got a breakaway down the left side. Olivia Savage took a crossing pass right in front of the goal and put a shot to the right corner. A sliding Dragons defender nearly pushed the ball aside, but it just crossed the goal line to knot the match at 2-2.
“We knew it would be tight if we allowed them to attack out of the midfield,” Bickling said. “They made us pay for our mistakes.”
As the rain began to steadily fall, both teams tried to force the keepers to handle the ball more frequently. Both Olson and Warren keeper Alyssa Andersen were up to the task. Andersen had to make a pair of diving stops late in the half, she held on to the second even with a Meadville player getting a foot on it as she corralled the ball.
Warren had one last quality chance with less than a minute to go in the half, but the Meadville defense turned it away and the match went to sudden death overtime.
After withstanding an initial Bulldogs chance to start the overtime, the Dragons applied pressure themselves. Fadale was again a catalyst. She drew a foul as she was playing the ball on the left sideline. That gave Warren a free-kick. Jessica Susz initially came to the ball to take the kick, but Bickling had a hunch and swapped players.
Early in the contest, Mohney had a couple of chances from the center, but had put the ball over the crossbar. With the distance and angle of the shot, combined with the rain-soaked ball, Bickling thought maybe the third time would be the charm.
“We know what kind of leg she’s got from football,” he said. “Those high shots made me think to put Sawyer on the kick.”
The hunch worked. Mohney took the kick near the 25 and almost to the sideline. She hit a solid, twisting shot that wound it’s way to the right corner. It stayed under the crossbar and over Olson’s hands, and as it hit the back of the net the Dragons ran to Mohney for a team embrace they’ve waited a long time for.
“I’m in disbelief,” Fadale said. “It’s ethereal. When I came here as a freshman, I never expected this. Last year gave us a taste and we knew we had to come back this year.”
Warren now turns its attention to the PIAA state playoffs for the first time in program history. The road ahead doesn’t get any easier as the Dragons will face the WPIAL champion in the first round. Mars and Plum will play for the WPIAL title Saturday, with the winner to face Warren Tuesday at a time and location to be determined.
“It’s going to be one tough match out of the shoot,” Bickling said. “But we think we can compete with anyone.”
That Warren had to beat Meadville to get to the state playoffs wasn’t lost on Mohney.
“If that doesn’t represent our four years here, I don’t know what does,” she said.