It was more bad luck than anything.
But it came at the worst possible time.
An unfortunate deflection led to the winning goal against the Pennridge girls soccer team, giving Central Dauphin a 2-1 victory in Saturday’s PIAA Class 4A championship game at Cumberland Valley’s Bobby Rahal Toyota Field in Mechanicsburg.
The ball deflected to CD’s Kayden Williams, the one person Pennridge didn’t want to have access to the ball. Williams, a sophomore who already has over 100 career points, capitalized on her chance, netting the winner with 4:27 to go in the game.
Williams’ 28th goal of the season broke a 1-1 deadlock that lasted for much of the game.
Central Dauphin, the District Three runner-up, put up the first goal of the game on a penalty kick less than 10 minutes into play.
That lead held until the 15:12 mark, when Hailey Primwhere took a rebound off Central Dauphin goaltender Sammy Widnick and put it in the cage.
“At the captains’ meeting, they reminded us we’re one of two teams still playing,” Pennridge coach Audrey Anderson said. “You never want to be the first loser, or however you’d describe it, but it’s still a huge accomplishment for these girls to have overcome some of the issues we had early in the season and moving girls around.
“I thought we were incredibly unlucky, but I did like our desire to go forward, our drive and intensity. Tori (Angelo), you could tell how hard she was playing, she wanted to win this game and I think our whole group out there had that same want to win this game.
“I can’t fault any one player, I can’t fault the team at all, we just came up short. I’m not an excuse-maker, there were moments and chances, and we didn’t capitalize on them. I’m sure that will fuel us for next year.”
Pennridge outshot Central Dauphin, 13-9, and had an 8-2 advantage in corner kicks.
“We played really well, we just didn’t finish on our chances,” said forward Joey Tomlinson, the only senior on the Pennridge squad.
“We wanted that goal so bad and it wasn’t going in, that was the most frustrating part. “I’m really proud of this group, they’ve done a great job for me over the past three years. I wouldn’t want to be playing with any other team.”
It was the second trip to the state finals in three years for the Rams, who won the title in 2020.
“That experience really helped us,” said Tomlinson, who will continue her playing career at Robert Morris. “There were a lot of freshmen on that team who are juniors now. I have a lot of confidence in them and I think they’ll do really well next year.”
Pennridge can still look back on the 2022 campaign with a great deal of satisfaction. The Rams were the Suburban One League Colonial Division champs with a 15-1 league record, and finished fifth in District One.
Entering the state title game Pennridge had just two losses, falling to Neshaminy in the regular season and to Central Bucks West in the District One quarterfinals. The Rams avenged both losses in the state tourney, topping CB West in the quarterfinals, 5-0, and beating the District One champion Skins, 2-0, in the semifinals.
“The hardest part for us is getting out of districts and once you get out of districts, then you’re right on the edge,” Anderson said. “This will remind them how much it takes and the composure it takes to win a state championship game. Those juniors were freshmen, they didn’t know any better, they thought it was just like any other game and now they’re on the other end and now the whole program recognizes we have to be a little bit better than the other team to put the ball in the back of the net. I know this group well and this is going to leave a bad taste.
“It’s hard to have the right words to tell your players after the last game when you’re season ends and it doesn’t go your way. I was super proud of how we came into this game. We were playing good soccer and played good soccer throughout the game, we just couldn’t finish our opportunities and ultimately, they were able to.
“It speaks volumes to what this program is willing to do to be back here. I get it, it didn’t go the way we wanted it to but it’s still an accomplishment.”