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Three Falcon soccer teams make summer league playoffs

Heading into its opening-round playoff game last week, the CSG Falcons Blue girls' soccer team had lost just once in its nine games in the Lehigh Valley Summer Soccer League's (LVSSL) Group B. That awarded Salisbury the No. 1 seed when the postseason tournament got underway last week.

Despite cruising for much of the regular season, Salisbury ran into a little bit of a speed bump last Wednesday. Taking on a Phillipsburg Liners team, a squad that went 2-7 in Group A play, a single goal separated the two teams. And while the Falcons outshot the Liners 21-3, No. 8 Phillipsburg was able to down the Falcons 1-0 at Lehigh University's Campus Fields.

"We had chances early, and you have to put some of those away," head coach Rick Babyak said. "Maybe we panicked just a little bit at the end. Not so much, but maybe we tried to rush and go a little too direct. That keeper was really strong. They had a really nice keeper in there."

That loss may have left a sour taste in Salisbury's mouth. As the top overall seed from Group A, the senior-laden Falcons team was favored against the Liners to open the 16-team tournament. They expected themselves to be playing in the quarterfinals on Monday.

But even with that heartbreaking loss, Salisbury stood out from everyone else in the regular season. The Falcons' 7-1-1 record awarded them regular season champions with a commemorative trophy just minutes before their game against Phillipsburg.

"It's been a great season, and that's why it's sad to go out because you don't want it to end," Babyak said. "You want another week of summer league."

Salisbury dominated possession for nearly the entire first half, but shot after shot failed to find the back of the net. When Phillipsburg lined up its second shot of the game in the final minutes of the first half, the Liners ripped a shot passed Falcon goalkeeper Kyra Bruns.

"When they scored that goal on us, what they did is what we should've been doing a little more," Babyak said. "They spread us out a little bit. They spread out our defense. We were a little slow to get back in the middle, and they got their one chance."

That turned out to be the game-winning tally, as none of the Falcons' nine shots in the second half crossed the goal line. Holly Bruns had a number of chances on goal in the first half, and Caylin Meikrantz opened up the second half with multiple opportunities.

"I don't mind them going with the pace, but you have to go pace and attack the flanks," Babyak said. "That is going to spread the defense out. If you go pace and attack down the middle, that was their strength today. They had a really strong girl playing in the middle defense and a really strong keeper.

"We were so successful in moving the ball around in the first half that we thought it's going to come. It just didn't."

Salisbury was tied with Southern Lehigh for the most goals scored in the regular season with 28. It's a good sign for Babyak to see after Salisbury graduated one of the area's top scorers in Mackenzie Groff.

"We do have to replace goals, but we are very capable of it," Babyak said. "There are girls that have been scoring goals out here all over the place. Caylin [Meikrantz] had a bunch, and Holly [Bruns] had a bunch for us. We were missing [Emily] Batman. She was injured and she is one of our goal-scorers, but you can't make excuses."

The defense also held up their end of the deal in the summer, allowing a division-low eight goals against in nine games.

"We had so many young defenders last year," Babyak said. "There is a lot of defensive experience this year between the two teams. We have a ton of good defenders. I don't think that's my worry at this point."

In Group A play, CSG Falcons White finished the regular 4-5 (with 24 goals scored and 21 allowed against) and earned the No. 6 seed from their division. And while they took on a competitive East FC (Easton) squad, the No. 3 seed from Group B in the playoffs, the Falcons earned a 2-0 victory.

On the boys' side, the CSG Falcons earned the No. 1 seed from Group A in the 8-team tournament which began on Monday. Salisbury faced Group B's No. 4 seed Freedom in the quarterfinals. The Falcons fell to the Patriots, losing a 4-3 penalty kick shootout after overtime could not settle a 2-2 tie.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ VIvian Rogers possesses the ball during a Lehigh Valley Summer Soccer League Junior Division playoff game.