---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- Once the horn went off at Kenneth Robbins Stadium, the Shikellamy girls all screamed and cheered as gathered for a group hug near midfield.
For a team that hadn't even been to the playoffs since 2007, it was an enormous win in the District 4 Class AA tournament against second-seeded Central Columbia.
The Braves came out aggressive in the first half, scoring three goals en route to a 3-1 quarterfinal win over the Blue Jays at Loyalsock H.S.
"It's very big. I'm just a sophomore, so I've been with a great group of girls this year. I know our seniors want it really bad and we deserved this," Shikellamy's Mikayla Neff said. "We've been working so hard and I just knew I had to come out here and give it all I got and that's what we did and it paid off."
Neff more than gave it all she had as she single-handedly helped boost Shikellamy's lead in less than a minute's time.
Haley Bingaman scored just 44 seconds into the game when she rifled a shot to the near post from about 15 yards out.
With 16:32 to play, it was Neff who was fed a beautiful cross from Elise Brubaker just inside the goal box. Neff snuck a shot past Central Columbia goalie Paige Siegrist to the near post.
Just 45 ticks later, Neff scored again, this time from behind the 18-yard box to dead-center of the goal for a huge 3-0 Shikellamy lead.
"I was still nervous at 3-0. It wasn't anything to celebrate at halftime," Braves coach Angela Sivillo said. "Very nervous the second half. It was a great start to the game, but I told the girls at halftime it's 0-0. We need to go out, focus on defense and pull out this game."
Defensively, the seventh-seeded Braves (10-8-1) were solid all game. The Blue Jays -- a team whose offense is extremely potent -- were held to no shots in the first half and limited to just five in the second. The Braves recorded 13 shots, 10 of which came in the first half.
"I was surprised (Central scored just one goal). I was going into this thinking it was going to be a really fair, tough fight," Neff said. "We kept working throughout the game and the goals just came."
It looked as if Kaitlyn Harmon would record another shutout win on the year, but Central Columbia's Hannah Klingerman broke up the bid when she scored off a hard shot from about 8 yards out to make it a 3-1 game with 10:08 remaining in the game.
And while the Blue Jays applied ample pressure in the second half after Shikellamy all but dominated in the first half, it wasn't enough to overcome the three-goal deficit.
"You got to give them a whole lot of credit. They took it to us (and) their keeper played well. She made the saves that she's supposed to make and that's what you ask of your keeper," Central coach Shawn Callender said. "Second half, we applied a bit more pressure but, again, she made the saves she's supposed to make."
"That team right there, Shikellamy, has to scratch and crawl every game they play," Callender added. "They're battle-tested and it makes a big difference when you're on a stage like this. When you're ready to play like that, it makes a difference."
Shikellamy plays the winner of today's Danville-Montoursville game in the semifinals at a day, time and site to be determined.