The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 24, 2013

Jon Gerardi's H.S. soccer column: Danville girls keep streak alive


Daily Item

---- — It was about halfway through the regular season this year when Danville's captains rounded up the entire team during a practice and let everyone on the team know that it was time to not only get serious during games, but practices as well.

At the time, the Lady Ironmen weren't sitting too pretty at just 1-5-1 on the year and knew a huge change had to happen in order to turn the season around.

"Basically that talk was a wake-up call we desperately needed," Danville junior Sara Naessig said.

Funny how a little talk can make a huge difference. After that, Danville put up a four-game winning streak.

Naessig was one of Danville's players who recalled watching the Danville/Midd-West game replay just a few nights before a huge league game against Selinsgrove on television, and the TV announcer mentioned that Danville may not make it to districts for the first time in team history.

"No team wants to be that team who didn't make it," the announcer said during the broadcast.

For Danville, it was surely a huge burden lifted off their shoulders when they tied Selinsgrove a few days after that replay, with just a few seconds remaining, to clinch a District 4 berth.

"We weren't going to be known as that Danville team who didn't make it to playoffs," Naessig said. "Despite barely making it into playoffs, I'm just glad that we not only proved everyone wrong, but also made our coaches proud."

Danville was first given a girl's soccer squad in 1990 and made the playoffs that inaugural season. Now, 24 seasons later, they've yet to not be postseason bound.

Despite it being a down year for Danville -- the Lady Ironmen did after all lose eight starters from the 2012 team, including a goalie -- the team expected from the get-go to be in districts come October. And while they weren't one of the higher seeds in the Class AA field, the Lady Ironmen still were competitive in the quarterfinals against Montoursville on Wednesday.

After losing two regular-season contests to the Lady Warriors -- both 2-1 -- Danville nearly took Montoursville to overtime on Wednesday, losing 1-0 in the final minutes of the game.

Sneaking into the playoffs gave Danville a sense of being an underdog, which is exactly the role they embraced.

"We are definitely the underdogs," Naessig said. "Finding eight new players to fill spots that they might not be used to playing in is very hard, but coach Tom (Craig) has done a great job in finding our 11 starters."

Much like Danville, the Shikellamy girls are embracing the same type of role.

The Braves more than doubled their win total from 2012, and got into the playoffs late in the season much like Danville.

"Yes we did (embrace the underdog role), especially since we haven't been here in six, seven years," Shikellamy sophomore Mikayla Neff said on Tuesday. "We definitely stepped it up and I think teams underestimated us and we've proved that we're a good team."

And who doesn't love an underdog?

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WELCOME TO THE CLUB: Congratulations to Warrior Run senior Elias George and Mount Carmel senior Ali Varano for joining "The Century Club" this week.

George recorded his 100th goal in a 2-0 win against Jersey Shore to end the regular season.

Varano earned her 100th career goal in a tough 3-2 loss in 2 OT's to Hughesville on Wednesday night in the District 4 Class A playoffs.

The Daily Item's Preseason Players of the Year have been scoring machines this year for their respective schools.

The two seniors each have 33 goals on the year. George's 33 are more than the next two area boys in District 4 combined.

A nice milestone for two very talented Valley players.

n Jon Gerardi covers high school soccer for The Daily Item. Email comments to jgerardi@dailyitem.com or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JonGerardi.