HOLLIDAYSBURG — If you missed the first 20 minutes of Tuesday night’s PIAA Class 3A girls soccer semifinal between Mars and Mechanicsburg, you missed a lot.
That was just enough to give the Planets a return trip to Hershey.
After Caroline Wroblewski drew a foul about 10 minutes into the match, Ellie Coffield buried a penalty kick for the first score of the night to propel the Planets to a 2-0 win over Mechanicsburg at a blustery and snow-covered Tiger Stadium.
“I was happy to do it,”Coffield said of the initial score. “I think it definitely set the tone for the rest of the first half and we just kept pushing and were fortunate enough to get the second.”
Mars coach Blair Gerlach was surprised by the elements his team would have to battle, especially as the game moved towards halftime and ultimately the end.
“The thought in this game with the wind being so directly blowing right at one goal, we weren’t expecting white on the field. I was expecting some rain, maybe,” he said of the battle against the elements. “You hope for that luck of the coin toss that you’re going to be able to go that way.
“We actually lost the coin toss, but they chose the other side. I think that proved to be a big difference because once you get up those two goals, you can organize things a bit defensively and they’ve got some fantastic players. It was a gritty game.”
The Planets only had to wait 10 more minutes before the game was ultimately put away on a shot from the 25-yard line from Leana Cuzzocrea for the game’s final tally.
“We were trying to be dangerous as possible in the first half, and we had many chances,” Wroblewski said. “Getting that foul was a good chance for Ellie to score because she’s very good at those penalty kicks.”
The Planets also had a chance to add additional insurance in the second half as Londynn Gonzalez found Wroblewski in the early minutes of the frame before the shot was turned away by the Wildcats.
“Once we settled in, we proved that we could run with anybody,” Mechanicburg coach Jake June said. “Taking nothing away from them, they earned it. I would take my girls any day of the week against any team for 80 minutes.”
Mechanicsburg did make things uneasy in the middle 20 minutes of the half, twice thanks to two shots from Erin Harris, but they were shut down by Planets goalkeeper Courtney Lisman.
“There were two or three balls that came into her on free kicks that were mainly services that are difficult to hold on to,” Gerlach said. “Making the initial save isn’t the big deal, it’s not giving up a rebound. She held a couple of really important balls for us and didn’t spill anything, which is fantastic.”
The focus now for the Planets will be the state championship as they look to defend their title against Villa Joseph Marie at 4 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium in a rematch of last year’s title match.
“They’re a phenomenal team,” Coffield said. “We’ve been keeping an eye on them the whole season, and obviously they got started a little because of Philadelphia and COVID, but they’re always a strong team and I’m really excited to see how we do against them this year.”