Ranger girls advance to regional championship

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Forest Park players celebrate after junior midfielder Payton Dilger's goal during Saturday morning’s regional
contest against Oldenburg Academy in Bretzville. The Rangers seized a 2-0 victory over the Twisters.


BRETZVILLE —  When the Forest Park Rangers (12-5) needed a boost during Saturday morning’s regional semifinal soccer game against Oldenburg Academy, junior midfielder Payton Dilger sent the Forest Park faithful into a frenzy. 

At the 35:00 mark of the second half, Dilger booted a high-arcing ball that sailed directly into the back of the net. That unassisted goal served double duty —  not only did it give Forest Park the lift it needed during the 2-0 victory over the Twisters, it also helped the Rangers punch their ticket to this evening’s regional championship game at Cedar Crest Intermediate. 

“This year, we’ve really been on her to have some long shots and test some goalies from range,” Rangers head coach Brad Weyer said. “She’s really taken that to heart —  sometimes, a little bit too much. She’s got an incredible shot. It was a really beautiful goal.” 

In the first half, both sides battled to a stalemate. The squads felt each other out during the early stages of the contest. 

After winning some midfield duels, the Rangers broke free and sought out opportunities to score. The Twisters pushed the ball up the field, but the game remained scoreless at the intermission. 

At halftime, the Rangers jogged toward the stands during their warm-up session. An abundance of Forest Park fans showered the players with encouraging words. 

“Forest Park has a lot going on today,” Weyer said. “We’ve got the boys (soccer) regional, we’ve got the girls volleyball sectional and girls and boys cross country. There’s so much going on. Just to have the amount of fans that we did here today is impressive. I think we’ll have even more tonight.”

With time winding down, Forest Park junior forward Leah Dilger provided a crucial insurance goal. She weaved her way through the heart of Oldenburg Academy’s defense and chipped a ball into the net with 11:14 remaining in the game. 

“We knew that if we got another one, we would basically ice the game,” Weyer said. “That was kind of our mentality for about 15-to-20 minutes there toward the end. We wanted to really get that second goal. We know that once we get two, it’s basically over.” 

As the Rangers huddled together and celebrated as a team, Weyer praised the group’s strong defensive output. Throughout the contest, Forest Park’s back line halted any major threats from the Twisters. 

Waking up early for a chance to play in the regional championship proved to be no problem for the Rangers. 

“Overall, we worked as a unit,” Weyer said. “Our midfield helped back on our defense. It was a really good team win.” 

Forest Park will return to face the winner of Trinity Lutheran and Washington Catholic at 7:00 p.m. in the regional championship. 

“This whole season has just been a blessing,” Weyer said. “We’re actually able to play. I’m just really thankful and grateful that we’re here playing. Everyone is healthy right now. We’re really enjoying it.”

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