Women’s Soccer – The return to play season improves at 12-5-4

Eden Haldeman (#13 white) attempts a shot in the United East Semifinal Game.

Christopher Palm

Eden Haldeman (#13 white) attempts a shot in the United East Semifinal Game.

Christopher Palm, Sports Staff

As intercollegiate fall sports return to competition at Penn State Harrisburg, the women’s soccer team would come clawing back into action after a year without any playing time.

“We have a pretty young team so it was just practicing our hardest,” said goalkeeper Delaney Shifflett, “trying to figure out the way that we play and how to execute it the best we can.”

The last time the Lions played was November 2019 when they lost to Albright 1-0 in the ECAC Tournament.

As the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to everything worldwide, the 2020 season was canceled for fall sports at Penn State Harrisburg, including women’s soccer.

An opportunity came for intercollegiate athletics to return in 2021 as the return to normalcy took shape on campus.

Even though the game atmosphere remained unchanged, one thing that did change was the game location.

The Lions got a different taste this season playing and practicing on artificial turf at the new Turf Field complex next to the Educational Activities Building.

Kicking off the 2021 season under head coach Brandon West, the Lions got off to a rough start heading into September with a loss to York and a pair of ties.

“It’s because of our coach (Brandon West),” said Eden Haldeman.  “He cares so much about us and playing as a team rather than just winning games.”

The Lions would use that strategy to score their first win of the season over Oneonta 2-0 with goals from Haldeman and Rhyan Socash.

“(Socash) is really good with her feet,” said Haldeman.  “I love playing up top with her because I can make those runs for her and be a decoy and she’s able to dribble it and score.”

Entering conference play in the newly-renamed United East Conference, the team found the winning rhythm moving forward with six shutouts.

Despite two major non-conference losses to Widener and nearby-rival Elizabethtown, The Lions kept the ball rolling with Socash and Kylee Altland leading the team with eight goals each.

“It’s not a team, it’s a family,” said Altland.  “Every person plays a role in what we accomplished today.”

Heading into the United East tournament at the top-ranked team, the Lions looked determined to finish the season with a championship.

“We have to just put a high volume on the ball,” said Shifflett.  “We’ve got to be a little unpredictable but also play our game and stay strong.”

The team would put a high volume in the semifinal, shutting out Lancaster Bible 3-0 with goals from Haldeman and Socash with Shifflett leading the defense, recording 83 saves this season.

“We are always going to give it our all, no matter what,” said Shifflett.  “No matter how far we go, we are going to put it all out on the line.”

The Lions would move onto the championship game against Penn State Berks, winning 2-1 and the United East championship.

As the tournament MVP for her two goals in that game, Altland also credited Socash, Shifflett and Paige Sharrow for their experience and seniority in contribution to the team.

“They are leaders on and off the field,” Altland said, “and they were able to be a key role in what we did today.”

With the conference championship complete, the Lions earned a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in the program’s history.

Having lost to McDaniel 2-0 in the first round, the Harrisburg Lions finished the season with 12 wins, a conference championship, and history made with plenty more to look forward to next year.

Eden Haldeman (#13 white) attempts a shot in the United East Semifinal Game. (Christopher Palm)