ALTOONA — Through most of the first half of Saturday's PIAA Class A boys soccer quarterfinal, Lancaster Country Day fought to keep up with the speed and skill of Winchester Thurston. The Cougars gritted their teeth and weathered the attack as a steady breeze carried a hint of winter across Mansion Park Stadium's turf field.
With a 1-0 lead, and with time winding down in the opening frame, Winchester Thurston wound up, punching in a chance off a corner kick in the 37th minute. The Bears struck for a pair of goals in the first seven minutes of the second half and roared into the Class A semifinals with a 4-0 victory.
"We just kept our patience," said Winchester Thurston coach Adam Brownold. "I told them to just hold the ball, keep working around and find the gaps. All of a sudden, we just hit a second level, and everything started clicking."
Grant Robinson catalyzed the second-half surge from the WPIAL runner-up Bears (18-2-0). After Diederik-Paul Schlingemann saved a ball at the line and played it back into the box, Lancaster Country Day goalkeeper Mike Korenkiewicz (seven saves) denied the initial chance before Robinson buried the rebound 65 seconds into the second period. Five minutes later, Robinson floated a ball into the middle, where Beck Buchanan punched it in on a bounce.
"I told the boys that the first 10 minutes (of the second half) was going to dictate where the game goes," Brownold said. "I said we can put it away real quick, or we're going to be in a dogfight."
The District Three third-place Cougars (15-5-2) showed fight in the first half, despite allowing an opening goal from Schlingemann on a screaming shot from 40 yards out in the 10th minute. Korenkiewicz made a pair of diving saves, Cameron Young won balls in the midfield and Wes Gilbert challenged goalkeeper Morgan Graham (three saves) with pressure up top.
"We were going to come out and fight and battle," said Country Day coach Chris Wilson. "It's what we've been doing all year. We've played a lot of good teams this year. We've seen some quality opponents."
The Cougars had knocked off previously unbeaten McConellsburg in the first round of the state tournament. They had blanked Camp Hill to extend their season beyond the district playoffs. During the regular season, they rallied for three second-half goals to defeat Annville-Cleona, tied Lancaster Catholic and gave Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Four champion Pequea Valley a challenge before falling 1-0 in overtime.
"We started having some of those moments," Wilson said of the season, "that really got the boys believing in themselves."
But the belief could not keep up with Winchester Thurston's speed and skill in Saturday's PIAA quarterfinal. A corner kick bounced around into the Country Day box late in the first half. Winchester Thurston's James Votruba-Drzal found it with his foot and poked it in at 36:28, building on the momentum that carried the Bears into Tuesday's state semifinals opposite Greensburg Central Catholic, which beat Springdale 1-0 in overtime.
"Our guys started moving around," Brownold said, "just being more active, and that opened things up for us."