WILLIAMSPORT — As Selinsgrove players boarded their charter bus Tuesday night for the return trip to Snyder County, every one of them knew the Seals wouldn’t need to wait another 12 years to play in the state soccer tournament.
No, this group will be back in action … in a mere four days.
Part of the state field for the first time since the Seals collared the 2007 District 4 Class 3A championship, Selinsgrove made its return a successful one as Chris Lupolt’s club blanked District 2-3A champion Crestwood at Loyalsock’s Ken Robbins Stadium.
Owen Magee and Noah Derr pocketed finishes as the District 4-3A champions (19-2) won their sixth straight contest — all by shutout. Cole Catherman was splendid in goal yet again, as he turned aside eight shots to preserve his 14th clean sheet.
“Honestly, a full team effort,” Catherman said, spreading the praise. “It takes a team to get a shutout and that’s what we did tonight.”
Up next for Selinsgrove is a date with District 1 champion Strath Haven in Saturday’s quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined. Strath Haven edged Susquehannock 2-1.
While Lupolt’s Seals manufactured several early chances — and Catherman parried a Justin Sterling poke away from danger — Selinsgrove eventually moved in front at 22:56 when Nick Ritter beat his mark in the left corner and wheeled down the end line.
As Crestwood converged on the talented freshman, Ritter dropped the ball to his right to a waiting Magee. One strike later, the Seals were up 1-0.
Both sides exchanged opportunities throughout the rest of the opening half, but Crestwood (18-1-3) nearly pulled even with five minutes left when Payton Glynn’s rip glanced off the crossbar and out of play.
Selinsgrove was back on the attack again early in the second half — as Ritter missed high and Crestwood starter Cole Kranson (five saves) deftly tipped Jamison Bohner’s blast over the crossbar. Soon, the Seals would be celebrating another goal.
And that finish arrived at 50:38, when Derr’s offering from the right corner flag slipped through Kranson near the right post. Since Magee was in the vicinity, he might have screened Kranson just enough to let the ball slip in.
While Mason Beaver anchored a defensive backfield that knew where the likes of Glynn, Sterling and Nick Ruggeri were at all times — and Bohner dropped from the midfield to pitch in — Catherman wasn’t going to yield anything without making a play on the ball.
In the 63rd minute, the talented junior made a pair of stops in bang-bang fashion, thwarting Glynn’s rip from the left wing before sliding across the crease to gobble up a follow. Catherman denied Glynn again in the 75th, popping his shot over the crossbar.
“That’s a typical practice drill that our goalkeeper coach (Brian Derr) works with him on,” Lupolt said of the two-stop sequence. “It’s almost second nature to him. You add that to his athleticism … and he was just stellar.”
Finally, in the 78th, Catherman used his feet to kick out a Trey Zabroski effort for the last of his eight saves as Crestwood kept pushing numbers forward in a last-ditch effort to dent the Seals’ lead and put doubt in Selinsgrove minds and bodies.
“We survived, but I thought our kids played well,” Lupolt said. “We had some good attacks and some good scoring opportunities that we didn’t finish on.”
More importantly, the Seals were moving on after dealing with all sorts of physical play throughout the 80-minute exercise — and particularly late.
“It means everything,” Catherman said of playing at the state level for the first time in 12 seasons. “To be part of a group of people that made this run possible is everything.”
PIAA CLASS 3A FIRST ROUND
at Loyalsock H.S.
SELINSGROVE 2, CRESTWOOD 0
S-Owen Magee (Nick Ritter), 22:56.
S-Noah Derr, 50:38.
Shots: C 10-8. Corners: C 9-6. Saves: Crestwood (Cole Kranson, 5, Alex Romanoski, 1); Selinsgrove (Cole Catherman, 8).