Braves prepare for undefeated Comets in state semifinals

Nov. 14—The Shikellamy girls soccer team made school history when it downed Red Land 2-0 on Saturday to clinch its first appearance in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals.

However, the Braves are trying to extend their historic season with one more game and make it to Saturday’s championship game. In order to do that, they’ll have to get past undefeated Abington Heights (22-0) tonight at Hazleton’s Harman-Geist Memorial Field.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The game is part of a D4 girls soccer doubleheader. Defending state champion Central Columbia meets Northwestern Lehigh — the only blemish on the Jays’ 22-1 mark — in a 2A semifinal at 5 p.m.

“It feels really good considering that we knew every team in this tournament was going to be really difficult,” said Shikellamy senior Elli Ronk after Saturday’s win. “It feels good that we keep coming out on top and keep giving it all of our effort and just all of our hard work over the past 90 days just showing through our play. It feels really great.”

Ronk recorded the Braves’ second goal against Red Land on Saturday. Ronk has tallied four goals and two assists through two state playoff games. In Shikellamy’s first-round matchup against Southern Lehigh, Ronk was involved in four out of five of the Braves’ scores as she earned three goals and an assist. Ronk was also credited with an assist on Lauryn Ross’ goal against Red Land.

Ronk is second on the team with 17 goals and 13 assists. Sophomore Jilly Deivert leads Shikellamy (19-3) with 44 goals and 19 assists. Besides Ronk and Deivert, Lily Persing, Maggie Benner and Ross can also get the Braves going offensively. Persing, Benner and Ross all have double-digit goals and at least nine assists on the season.

The Braves have been equally as stout on defense. The unit has only given up 27 goals all season. The Braves are led by their two center backs in Blaire Balestrini and Emma Koontz. Defensive midfielders Allison Anselmo and Rorey Egan also contribute to the unit.

The unit has helped first-year goalie Lily Fatool since she took over between the posts on Sept. 18 against Williamsport. Fatool has only allowed 15 goals while stopping 76 shots for 1.0 goals against average. Fatool also recorded her seventh shutout of the season on Saturday’s win against Red Land.

The Braves will go up against an Abington Heights team that’s equally as talented as them offensively and defensively. Overall, the Comets have found the back of the net 147 times while only allowing 17 goals.

The Comets, who won the District 2 championship, are led by Saint Francis (PA) recruit Maggie Ratchford, who has 54 goals for her career. Ratchford and Ally Steenback both crossed the 100-point plateau for their careers during a District 2 quarterfinal game against Tunkhannock. Senior goalie Lindsay Tasker has helped the Comets be stout defensively all season.

Abington Heights is also making its first appearance in the state semifinals. If the Braves can hand the Comets their first loss, then they’ll earn a trip to the state championship game. The final will take place on Saturday at Eagle View Middle School in Mechanicsburg at 4 p.m.

The winner of tonight’s game will face a team from the WPIAL on Saturday. Moon and Mars will battle it out in the other semifinal tonight. Moon (17-2-2) was the runner-up in District 7 while Mars (19-1) finished in third place.

“Our confidence, I think, has stayed pretty high throughout this whole tournament because we have the whole town of Sunbury and (Northumberland) behind our backs,” Ronk said. “And all of our parents just continuously keep supporting us over every game over and over again, buying us food, whatever we need. So going into this tournament, making Shikellamy history has been so huge for us that we just know we need to keep pushing in this tournament and after the semifinals, we just have to keep going.”


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