SCRANTON — In any pressure-packed, rivalry game with league title implications, it’s important to swing the momentum in your favor early in the contest.
Scranton Prep did just that, in the sixth minute, when Eileen Casey scored off an assist from Mary Kate Caucci for the first goal of the match.
“Liz Shoemaker takes great corner kicks and she placed it perfect,” Casey said. “It kind of just bobbled around until I got (the pass) and I hit it as hard as I could into the back of the net.
“It gave us so much confidence. We knew we wanted to get an early (goal), and once we did we really strived off of it.”
Scranton Prep continued a blend of attacking offensive and aggressive defensive play throughout to defeat Abington Heights, 3-2, in a Lackawanna League Division 1 girls soccer game on Thursday, Oct. 22 at the Clarks Summit Elementary field.
After Abington Heights’ Allyson Derry drew a tripping penalty in the 33rd minute, Emma Henzes provided the equalizer.
Henzes curled a free kick from just outside the left box over Classics goalie AJ Hendershot and into the top of the net.
Scranton Prep (12-1) threatened to retake the lead in the 36th minute, but a key defensive play kept the game tied. After Lady Comets goalkeeper Johanna Show initially made a save off a corner kick, Abington Heights’ Emily Clauss cleared another scoring attempt out of the box.
The Classics were able to move back into the lead when Casey fired a shot from just outside the box, off a pass from Caucci, into the back of the net during the first minute of the second half.
“She’s just so steady,” Scranton Prep head coach Doug Knieser said. “You always know what you’re going to get out of Eileen. She’s smooth and a lot of her play is subtle, but she links everything together for us. She’s always in the right spot and always makes good decisions with the ball. The way she hit the shot on that second goal was just beautiful.”
Abington Heights (12-1) had a chance to tie the game in the 61st minute off a corner kick from Ashley Mulherin, but Prep’s Jillian Paulus cleared a shot attempt out of the box to preserve the lead.
The Comets took advantage of a foul on the Classics and Henzes scored her second goal off another free kick that curled over a wall of defenders and past Hendershot.
“Both of them were fantastic,” Knieser said of Henzes’ goals. “You almost couldn’t place them in a better spot. I give credit to her, they were great shots.”
The goal didn’t deflate the Classics spirits, in fact it may have provided a spark. After Show made two saves on shots from Casey, Prep’s Madison Ziobro found Cara Griffith for the game-winning goal in the 77th minute.
“As soon as (Henzes) scored, we were ready to go,” Griffith said. “We weren’t giving up by any means. If anything, it made us want to play harder.”
Scranton Prep outshot Abington Heights, 18-6, and controlled possession of the ball for the majority of the contest.
“I think they were probably a little bit more technical in handling the ball the whole game,” Abington Heights head coach Roger Jacobs said. “We were working hard, but we needed to control the ball a little bit better. You have to be quick, but you have to be patient.”
With the win, Scranton Prep forces a one-game playoff with the Lady Comets for the division championship at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Prep’s Loyola Field. Abington Heights defeated Scranton Prep, 2-1, on Sept. 17.
“We knew we could beat them and wanted to come back after that first time,” Casey said. “After this win, I think we have even more confidence for the next game.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.