Cardinals post upset of Tamaqua


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PINE GROVE - Pine Grove's Mackenzie Lesh has had trouble finding her shot the past two weeks.

She emerged through the fog at Cardinal Stadium on October 4 to rediscover it at the perfect moment.

Lesh scored on a blistering shot from about 25 yards out during the 96th minute, lifting Pine Grove to a thrilling, 2-1, double-overtime victory over Tamaqua in a Schuylkill League Division I contest.

"We came out with the right mindset," Lesh said of the win. "We were really tired at the end. I finally ripped a shot and we made it. Everybody is really happy."

Lesh picked up a loose ball just outside the 18 in the middle of the field and let the shot go. Raiders keeper Carly Sassaman dove to her right to try and stop the shot, but it had too much on it and landed in the back corner of the net, ending a hard-fought and physical contest.

The goal was Lesh's 10th of the season, and her first since Sept. 20 against North Schuylkill. After the ball went in, her teammates mobbed her at the exact spot where she took the shot. The bench soon cleared, and those players joined the celebration.

"I was praying it would go in," Lesh said of her shot. "Sometimes it doesn't like to."

Jess Fath tied the game in the 64th minute for Pine Grove (10-5, 6-4 D-I), which snapped a two-game losing

streak with the victory and had all 11 starters play the entire game. Thursday's win was the Cardinals' second over the Raiders (11-5-1, 7-3-1 D-I) this season, the first coming Sept. 15 by a 2-0 margin.

Two earlier-season losses apiece to Pottsville and Blue Mountain have knocked Pine Grove out of the running for the league playoffs. But Thursday's victory was the Cardinals' biggest of the season and followed a disappointing 5-0 loss to Pottsville on Saturday.

It was important for seeding in the upcoming District 11 Class A playoffs.

"This is huge," Pine Grove coach Jason Brown said. "We need a win like this to carry us into districts for confidence."

Kaliee Rottet gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute with her 37th goal of the season. It came a night after she had five goals against North Schuylkill, setting a school record. Marked the entire night by the Cardinals' Steffi Sampson, Rottet had a much together time finding room to move. Still, she almost scored the game-winner in the 88th minute but her shot from about 25 yards out hit the crossbar.

The loss snapped the Raiders' three-game winning streak.

"I think it is a match-up thing," Tamaqua coach Clem McCarroll said. "They play us well. They are one of those teams that when you play them, they know you so well that it doesn't matter what the records are. The whole Schuylkill League is like that now."

Thursday was the fourth overtime game for the Cardinals this season and the fifth contest decided by one goal. One of those overtime games was a 1-0 loss to Blue Mountain on Sept. 26 as the Eagles scored the game-winner on a Jacqueline Woleschock penalty kick in the first overtime.

Strangely enough, Shannon Zimemrman had an opportunity to win the game for Pine Grove on a penalty kick in the 78th minute Thursday after she was brought down inside the box. However, her shot sailed wide of the goal, bringing back bad memories of the Blue Mountain defeat.

However, the Cardinals never lost their focus and got a bit of luck to go their way when Rottet's shot hit the crossbar. Lesh then struck about six minutes later.

"For some reason, we don't have that luck to when it is those close games, we are usually on the losing end of it," Brown said. "I think we are finally getting the drive now. We are getting the drive to be able to push through those games."

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