Soccer

Lewisburg’s Carter Hoover celebrates a goal during a state semifinal against Midd-West.

DANVILLE — With Ben Liscum watching from the stands at Ironmen Stadium, Lewisburg senior Simon Stumbris channeled a bit of his former teammate’s fiery on-field leadership style.

Stumbris gave an impassioned plea to his teammates to give all they had for 15 more minutes before double overtime of Tuesday’s Class 2A boys soccer state semifinal against Midd-West.

“Obviously, I love all of my teammates,” Stumbris said. “When it gets to where my season is on the line, I’m going to try to put some extra energy into my teammates. Maybe I even try to coerce the young guys, yell at them a little bit.”

The teams battled for 15 more scoreless minutes, sending the match into a shootout, which the Green Dragons won to reach the state final for the second consecutive season.

Liscum — who plays for 12th-seeded Penn State and had a day off before the Nittany Lions began preparation to open the NCAA tournament on Sunday — was one of eight senior starters who led Lewisburg to an undefeated state championship season a year ago.

That meant there were plenty of questions about how good Lewisburg could be entering the season. Turns out the Green Dragons were good enough to at least return to the state final.

“I didn’t expect it, but this is exactly what I wanted,” Stumbris said. “I knew it was going to be so much harder than last year. As a senior class, we had to lead together. We don’t have Ben Liscum. We don’t have Jack Dieffenderfer, but together, we can be just as good.”

The Green Dragons also lost a third 30-goal scorer to graduation in Anthony Bhangdia.

“Going into this year, we were losing eight starters; we were losing 100 goals from three people,” Lewisburg senior Philip Permyashkin said. “Everyone thought that we were going to drop off. Our goal was to make a name for ourselves.

“I think we had our hardest schedule in Lewisburg history. No one expected us to do with this well.”

Shortly before the season started, Lewisburg coach Ben Kettlewell pointed to the tough schedule facing his team and what they lost to graduation, and said the Green Dragons weren’t going to go undefeated this season.

The veteran coach was right. The Green Dragons head to the Class 2A state final against Quaker Valley at 20-1-1, with the lone loss coming on Oct. 2 to State College, which won the District 6 Class 4A title and lost in the first round of states.

“We can beat anybody in the state, but there are moments we can get scored on against anybody,” Kettlewell said. “I’ll throw us in the ring and see what happens.”

The Green Dragons face District 7 champion Quaker Valley on Friday at 1:30 p.m. for the state title. Lewisburg defeated District 7 champion Deer Lakes last year in the state final, but getting back to this level seemed to be a stretch for the Green Dragons in the preseason.

“I was not expecting this,” Lewisburg goalie Tony Burns said. “Our team has grown a lot — even from game to game — from the start of the season to the last half of the season.”

Lewisburg has been tested more this season with six one-goal wins, in addition to the shootout victory over Midd-West, the loss and the draw.

“We feel like we’ve been through the trenches,” Lewisburg senior Caleb Kim said. “Our team is closer than it’s ever been before. I can’t wait. I’m so excited.”

Last year, Kim was one of the Green Dragons in a supporting role as the Class of 2021 led the team to a 22-0 record, with 157 goals scored and only six allowed.

“It was a lot of fun,” Kim said of last season. “The (seniors) had so much quality; they didn’t need me. It gave us a lot of experience for this year, and you can see it with our mentality.”

Now this group of Green Dragons is trying to put their own stamp on the program.

“It means a lot to us, and it also means a lot to the program,” Burns said of the return trip to the final. “The seniors last year really helped us and led us. It just shows that they did their job to set an example for us to follow and to get back there.”

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