Lewisburg faces another District 3 challenge

Nov. 12—Keeley Baker's neon pink jersey is like a beacon for opposing goal scorers, a way to locate their target with scarcely a glance at the cage.

Knowing where the ball is supposed to go and getting it there, however, are two vastly different things.

Lewisburg has played tremendous defense in front of its senior goalie during a six-game winning streak that carried the Green Dragons to a share of their first-ever Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I title and their first District 4 crown since 2019.

Getting them to today's state quarterfinals, though, was very much Baker's doing. She made six saves in Tuesday's first-round win over Berks Catholic, which was the most work she had in three weeks.

Baker kept the District 3 sixth-place Saints off the scoreboard well into the third quarter, then came up big several times late in the game to preserve Lewisburg's 4-3 win.

"We know how amazing she is, but maybe everyone else hasn't gotten to see that a whole lot," said Tonya Berge, the Green Dragons' first-year coach. "We know that she's amazing, so I wasn't surprised that she was stopping as many shots as she did. She's great."

Baker's six saves Tuesday were more than she collected in the previous five games combined — a stretch that included three district games and the HAC-I clincher at Shikellamy. She hadn't been as busy as she was Tuesday since turning away nine shots in a 2-1 loss at Mifflin County on Oct. 19. Her best outing was an 18-save effort in a Sept. 8 win at Selinsgrove that paved the way for sharing the division title with the Seals.

On Tuesday, the 6-foot Baker deftly kicked away early challenges by Berks Catholic sniper Aubreigh Uba, a 44-goal scorer who has pledged to play at Louisville. After the Green Dragons went ahead with two first-quarter goals, the Saints' frustration began to bubble to the surface the longer they remained scoreless.

"I know, for our team even, when shots aren't falling but you're used to it with that person having an amazing shot, that it definitely gets to you mentally," said Baker. "We try not to let that get to us, but for other teams, that's sometimes their downfall."

The Saints ultimately broke through with a pair of highlight-reel goals — scoring a perfect deflection at the goal line and a rebound batted out of the air — but it's likely only their third goal could have been stopped. Still, the goal that made it 4-3 with 4:24 to play was a well-executed penalty corner with the ball quickly returned to the inserter for a sweep to the opposite post.

Lewisburg overcame the perceived disparity in the strength of Districts 3 and 4 programs. Berks Catholic entered the District 3 tournament as the fourth seed in a highly competitive, 16-team field, but a quarterfinal upset led the Saints to the fifth-place game where they were beaten by Greenwood.

"I feel like maybe coming in that might have been in the back of their minds," said Berge, "but after we got those two goals ... that gave us confidence. I could tell their attitudes changed, that, Hey, we can do this."

The Green Dragons' opponent today, Oley Valley (1 p.m. at Lower Dauphin Middle School), presents an even greater challenge. The District 3 runner-up Lynx (22-3-1) have won four of their last six, dropping the Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association title game to Wilson and the district final to Boiling Springs.

Oley Valley was the Class A runner-up last season, earning state silver for the third time since the PIAA expanded to three field hockey classifications in 2016. The Lynx were also state semifinalists in 2017 and 2018.

Oley Valley is led by senior Alexandra Lopez, a Shippensburg recruit with 42 points (18 goals). Taylor Vaccaro (Delaware) and Mia Woodard, both juniors, have 14 and 13 goals, respectively. In all, the Lynx boast nine girls with at least six goals this season. Their goalie is senior Cenora Grim.

Lewisburg (15-5) counters with four girls with more than a dozen goals. Avery Mast, a junior midfielder, has a team-high 18 goals, while senior forward Maddie Ikeler has 17. Junior mid Whitney Berge and freshman forward Maddy Moyers are close behind with 14 and 13, respectively. All four Green Dragons have at least 30 points, twice as many 30-point scorers as the Lynx.

Today's winner advances to the semifinals Tuesday to face either District 2 champion Wyoming Area (20-2) or District 3 third-place West Perry (18-5). Wyoming Area was one of only two teams to beat Lewisburg by more than one goal this season. The Green Dragons beat the other, Line Mountain, in the district semis.

"This group has played with poise the whole season long," said Tonya Berge. "When we're panicking as coaches on the sideline a bit — I'm trying to keep it cool — but I said to my assistant that the girls seem to be cool, calm, collected, and I like seeing that because that gives me confidence in them."