SMYRNA — Before most people could even sit down at Smyrna High, Sussex Tech had the goal it needed to move into the girls’ state soccer semifinals for the third straight season.
Sophomore Hanna McDonald scored in less than a minute and senior Michelle Laz added another in the second half as the fourth-seeded Ravens won 2-0 over No. 5 Smyrna in the first round of the DIAA Division I tournament on Wednesday night.
With the win, Sussex Tech (13-3) avenged a 2-1 defeat to the Eagles on May 5. Smyrna ended its season at 13-3.
The Ravens will face top-seed Padua Academy on Wednesday at a time and location to be determined.
“I’m honestly surprised because all around the school people were saying we wouldn’t go through,” McDonald said. “But we all really play well together and it’s just amazing how well we’ve been playing.
Goalie Leslie Fazio, who is committed to Delaware State University, recorded five saves for the shutout.
Fazio and Laz (a St. Peter’s commit) are two of the three seniors on the Sussex Tech roster. The Ravens had to replace 10 seniors from last year’s semifinal squad.
“I looked at this as a rebuilding year but we had a lot of players who know their roles and really picked it up,” said Tech coach Carlos Villa. “We’ve improved immensely during the whole year and that made a huge difference. We knew we had a great goalie and a great goal scorer but all of these other kids took on a level of responsibility and work ethic that really manifested itself in a successful season. They’ve been fantastic to work with.”
Fifty seconds into the match, McDonald received a pass from Wuendy Cruz on the right side of the penalty box. Her high shot was able to duck under the crossbar for the early lead.
Smyrna almost equalized in the 20th minute but Casey Bell’s effort was just over the net.
The Eagles had the majority of the chances in the first half after McDonald’s goal, but Laz was able to double the Ravens lead early in the second half.
“That’s a great way to start a match but they came back,” Villa said. “Smyrna was all over us, they didn’t back off. They responded well and we had to take a lot of that storm. But we reacted well, defended when we needed to and that second goal from Michelle was huge.”
Laz one-timed a bouncing ball from just outside the 18-yard box and pulled it inside the far post in the 46th minute.
“I knew I didn’t have enough time,” Laz said. “I knew if I did one touch it had a chance to go in, so I just shot it and fortunately it did.”
Smyrna freshman goalie Cassidy Cook kept the Eagles in with a diving stop on the goal-line with 27 minutes left, but the closest Smyrna came to scoring in the second half was a free kick by Bell over the net.
The Ravens were eliminated from last year’s tournament by Padua in the semifinals as the Pandas won 6-0. Padua has won the last three state titles.
“Being in the final four this year with a new team is a huge accomplishment,” Laz said. “I’m very excited for the next game and hopefully we can come out with a good result.”
Staff writer Tim Mastro can be reached at email@example.com or 741-8224.
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