Is Warrior Run/Loyalsock the best rivalry in District 4 girls soccer?
Actually, that's not even the question anymore. Nope, there shouldn't be any doubt about that one after Tuesday night's thrilling, physical battle in the PIAA Class A semifinals (won by Warrior Run 2-1 in overtime) at the Balls Mills Soccer Complex.
The question now is, is it the best rivalry in District 4 sports?
What else could it be? Fine, Southern Columbia/Mount Carmel in football is fantastic. But they're in different classifications, so they never meet in districts or states.
Milton vs. Danville in boys basketball? Maybe five years ago, but not now.
No, it says here that the best rivalry in District 4 sports currently happens on the futbol pitch between the Lady Defenders and Lady Lancers.
Tuesday night's game was the latest skirmish in a rivalry that's featured eight games in the last two years, including two in the District 4 final (both won by Loyalsock), and two in the PIAA semifinals (both won by Warrior Run).
"It's intense," Lancers coach Ben Comfort said. "You play each other … eight times in two seasons, you know how each other plays. You try to think as a player and coach, 'What are we going to do differently to get an edge?'"
Tuesday's game was as physical as girls soccer comes. Bodies hit the Field Turf hard; girls were colliding with one another in some corner of the field at just about any moment. When players challenged for the ball, there were more leg locks and arm holds than a jujitsu tournament.
"I think the crowd speaks for the intensity (of the rivalry)," Warrior Run coach Jen Allen said. "I think the whole eastern side of Pennsylvania was here tonight. That brought the level of intensity up for everybody."
The Defenders' Emily Potter went down with a head injury in overtime and didn't return. The Lancers' Cassaundra Soars came off the field after committing a foul on Alexa Muffly and had to have the blood flowing out of her mouth staunched. If these girls were boxers, you got the feeling that they all would have gladly sat on their stools between rounds and said (a la Rocky), "Cut the eye, Mick!"
"When we play, pretty much any game gets physical," Muffly said. "But Loyalsock has skill to go with that."
Appropriately enough, the game ended amidst a collection of bodies in the box. Mariah Campbell took a corner kick, and Sarah Grow somehow booted it through despite the fact that it looked like all 22 girls were packed together more tightly than a rugby scrum.
"We all went at it," Campbell said. "Both teams played very aggressively. … (Tonight) was now or nothing. We didn't want to go home."
Warrior Run has one more game this year. That will be Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium against Springdale for the state title. Their next game with Loyalsock? Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until next September for that one.
n Sports reporter Todd Stanford covers high school soccer for The Daily Item. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/toddrstanford.