Kicking and screaming

A special season for the boys’ soccer season came to a disappointing end at the state championship.

The Aces admire their district championship trophy, the program’s first since 2010, following a 1-0 victory at Springford High School. | Photo courtesy of Ben Ross

This year, LM’s boy’s varsity soccer team had a truly remarkable season. On November 16, they defeated Parkland in the PIAA state semifinal, a scrappy victory which sent the Aces to their first state semifinal in over thirty years. The game also marked their 23rd win of the season, setting a brand new program record. However, in order to cap off their nearly perfect season with the state title under their belt, the Aces would have to overcome an extremely formidable adversary, Seneca Valley. Seneca Valley was making their third consecutive state championship appearance and had won it back in 2020. The Raiders dominated their opponents throughout the state playoff, outscoring the competition by nine goals in just three games, so the LM players knew that they would have to conjure a special performance in order to secure the title. Unfortunately for the Aces, they were unable to do so, falling by a shocking score of 6-0. After an unforgettable run, this game was definitely one that both players and fans wish they could forget. 

Despite the daunting task ahead of them, the LM student body and the team were confident heading into the game. According to second year varsity player Owen Bress ’24, “We knew our work wasn’t finished yet, but we definitely thought we could finish the job and complete the treble.” The squad had been playing exceptionally well of late, keeping a clean sheet in the five previous playoff games, and the Friday pep-rally had everybody hyped for the big match. A sizable crowd of both students and parents made the trek out to Mechanicsburg, braving the two hour drive and bitter cold in order to watch their Aces try to take home the trophy. 

And at the very beginning, it looked like they might do so. The Aces got off to a promising start, and just over two minutes into the game their efforts were rewarded when Drew Davis ’23 was awarded a penalty kick after being tripped up by the keeper inside the box. But their chance to grab an early lead was foiled by Seneca Valley’s goalkeeper, who made a strong save on the penalty shot by Sam Nyenka ’23. Seneca Valley dominated the game from this point forward, netting their first goal just ten minutes later. The Raiders quickly added two more, and with five minutes remaining in the first half, the Aces found themselves in a 3-0 hole. Then, with just over three seconds in the half left, Seneca Valley scored a backbreaking fourth goal, crushing any dreams of a miraculous comeback LM fans may have been harboring. In the second half, the deflated Aces side conceded twice more. Despite a couple of promising moments in the offensive half, they were never able to convert, leading to a final score of 6-0. While the Seneca Valley players and fans celebrated jubilantly, LM could do nothing but sit and watch, stunned. Although the Aces could have undoubtedly played better, their opponent deserves plenty of credit for their dominating performance. In the end, LM’s spectacular season ended with a heartbreaking loss, albeit at the hands of a more than worthy opponent. 

Of course, even without the state title, the season was still a great success. Summing up his experience this season, defender Thanos Daniilidis ’23 said, “Even though it wasn’t the finish that we wanted, I think it was a brilliant season, and playing with this team of brothers, for me, was really a great way to end my high school soccer career.” Throughout the regular season the Aces dominated, capturing the Central League crown along the way. The high-powered offense, led by First Team All-Central League selections Nyenka and Simon Rosen ’23, terrorized opposing defenses across the league (Nyenka was also named Central League MVP). On the other side of the field, the Aces defense was equally, if not more dominant. Goalkeeper Crosby Johnson ’24 excelled in front of the net, and the experienced backline of Daniilidis, Mori Rothman ’23, Liam Clifford ’23, and Jude Vaughan ’24 played shutdown defense all fall. Johnson credited their defensive success to the fact that “our entire defense was always composed, and we worked together to always be in the right place at the right time,” as they conceded just six goals across seventeen regular season matches. Despite a last-minute loss to rival Conestoga, the Aces earned the top overall seed in the district playoffs thanks to their impressive goal differential. LM continued their strong play into the playoffs, making quick work of Hatboro-Horsham and Central Bucks South, before taking down West Chester Henderson in the district semifinal. 

In the district championship, the Aces came up against a familiar foe, Conestoga. Earlier in the year, LM looked as if they were cruising to an easy 2-0 win before they conceded twice in the final two minutes, eventually losing in overtime. Then, the previous year Conestoga had bested LM in the district championship in a tightly-contested penalty shootout. This time around, LM’s defense gave Conestoga nothing to work with, and a goal from Nyenka put the Aces up for good, avenging their previous losses in emphatic fashion. All of their masterful performances throughout the year led Danilidis to claim, “some say a soccer field is full of poets, but in this case our team was the poetry.”

With three shutout wins in the opening rounds of the state tournament, LM set a program record for wins, adding yet another achievement to their already long list from the season. Although they fell just short of obtaining the ultimate prize, the 2022 boy’s varsity soccer team will be remembered as an all-time great, as they dominated opponents and shattered records on their way to becoming Central League champions, District 1 champions, and the State runner-up. It was an invaluable experience for the players as well, with Rothman saying, “to be able to go out there and do something that has not been done since 2010 with my closest friends means everything to me.”

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