---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
HAMBURG -- There's a good chance that even now, Southern Columbia may not have come down from the high of Tuesday's PIAA Class A state tournament first-round win. And really, you can't blame the Tigers if they're still amped.
From a three-goal deficit to a 5-3 win thanks to a remarkable goal rally in the second half, Southern coach Derek Stine summed it up best after the game: "That was amazing. ... I don't think I've ever seen anything like that. To come back from a 3-0 deficit and go 5-3? I think that was amazing. The girls worked unbelievably hard for that game."
But Stine and his Tigers know they can't keep celebrating. There's more work to be done, and the focus shifts to Saturday's Class A quarterfinal game against Halifax (21-1) at Hamburg H.S. at noon.
Halifax has a handful of talented players capable of scoring, including Krissy Kelley (24 goals, 18 assists), Rylee Gonsar (11), Kayla Kelley (21, 8) and Kylee Sorichetti (8).
While those four can spread the ball and cause matchup problems, Southern Columbia's defense is more than capable of handling the task at hand.
The Tigers' midfield, defensive backs and goalies have been solid all year, recording an area-best 12 shutouts -- second only to Warrior Run's 13 -- and have allowed just 15 goals through 22 games, three of which came Tuesday.
And as the first round proved, there's no lead you can consider safe against Southern.
"It just shows that we don't back down and we're so determined and we're just going to try our hardest," Southern Columbia junior Aly Stavinski said after Tuesday's exciting win.
The Tigers have an extremely potent offense with seniors Bailey Bzdak and Mackenzie Clark, who have combined for 41 goals this year, in addition to sophomore Haley Levan, who has scored 11.
Not to mention Bzdak, Clark and Levan are the top three assists leaders in the Valley.
Aside from the 11 seniors on the roster, no other Tiger players had state playoff experience prior to this season, but the underclassmen are playing for those seniors.
"I've been playing with them my whole entire life, so I just want to win a state championship with them," Levan said after Tuesday's game. "This is going to be our last year (together); I just want us to succeed a lot."
The Tigers recorded their first 20-win season since going 24-1 in 1998, and won their first state playoff game since appearing in 2010 when they defeated Lakeland.
The Danville boys had an exciting win on Tuesday as well.
After 30 years, the Ironmen finally got that elusive state tournament win they'd been seeking they defeated Tunkhannock in double overtime, 2-1, to advance to Saturday's quarterfinals.
Danville was 0-6 in the state tournament going into Tuesday's game, and it was also the first state appearance for Danville since it last won the District 4 championship in 2003.
"It is nice to finally break through and get a win. It has been a long time coming," Danville coach Brian Dressler said. "We have had some great teams over the years that just fell a little short."
The District 4 Class AA champion Ironmen (16-5) now face District 3 champion Pequea Valley (19-4-1) on Saturday at Hamburg at 4 p.m.
The Braves blanked Salisubry, 2-0, in Tuesday's opener. Victor Weaver has been Pequea Valley's go-to player these playoffs, scoring five goals in the Braves' six postseason games, including four game-winners. Their state win also was the fifth consecutive postseason shutout for Pequea Valley.
While Weaver has been the postseason threat, Ethan Hoover leads the Braves with 14 goals on the year.
Pequea Valley's stingy defense will have an extremely tough test in slowing down Danville, a team which has the third-most goals in the Valley this year with 55.
Gage Reber and Eric Dempsey have been a solid 1-2 punch for the Ironmen, as Reber has 21 goals and Dempsey has 20. Shayne Riley has been a nice asset as well, dishing out an area-best 19 assists.
"Those three have been great all year, especially over the second half and in playoffs. Eric has been unreal with his goal scoring with six goals in the four playoff games, scoring at least a goal in each," Dressler said. "Gage has been great in creating things for us and finishing around the box. Shayne has been a workhorse in the midfield and a great setup guy for Gage and Eric.
"I think our offense is very dynamic and attacks from many different angles," Dressler added. "When those three are playing like they can, they are very tough to keep off the board."