HERSHEY — There is a nerve-wracking feeling that enters the body of a passenger on the steep uphill climb of any of the numerous roller coasters that loom over Hersheypark Stadium.
There was a similar feeling to the District Three Class 2A championship game on Saturday afternoon between Lancaster Mennonite and Oley Valley.
The Blazers won the overtime thriller 1-0 courtesy of a title-clinching strike off the foot of Matt Sampsell.
“It felt amazing to shoot it and it looked great going in,” said Sampsell.
It was a well-played match on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The Lynx started on the offensive, catching a Blazers side who struggled to find their groove in the first 10 or so minutes.
Lancaster Mennonite’s touches were not as clean as they normally are, with numerous errant passes. They also conceded several corner kicks early on, playing with fire against seventh-seeded Oley Valley that already had a few upsets this tournament, including a win over third-seeded Boiling Springs in the semifinal round.
“We were trying to work the ball out of the back maybe a little too much,” said Blazers coach Fred Winey. “They got more corners than I would have liked.”
The Blazers were able to survive the early Lynx pressure and start to find their game in the 15th minute of the match. Forward David Shell was looked on early to relieve some pressure, and he used his strength, pace and footwork to give the Oley Valley defense something to think about.
One of Lancaster Mennonite’s strengths is its ability to move the ball quickly from the backline to the forwards, giving the opponent little time to regroup. That was on display in the championship match, as the Blazers defense looked to play the ball forward as quickly as it could.
It worked, and Lancaster Mennonite was able to keep possession of the ball along with sustaining pressure on the Oley Valley defense. The attacking play between Blazers forwards Sampsell, Shell, Ben Nolt, David Lapp and Ethan Groff started to really connect as regulation came to a close.
They were producing chances, one with two minutes left in the second half off the foot of Shell, who just missed finding the opening and potentially winning goal.
It felt like Oley Valley needed the overtime intermission, as the Blazers continued to keep the Lynx defense pinned. Once overtime began, there was a feeling that the longer the match went, the better the odds for the Lynx.
Sampsell’s winning strike was a result of constant pressure, and he put enough on the shot to beat the Oley Valley goalkeeper.
“I’m glad my guys were able to play well,” said Winey.