31 years later, there are no coincidences

Nov. 3—As Todd Snyder nervously watched from the sideline while his team's fate rested on dreaded penalty kicks, he had to be feeling some Déjà vu.

Thirty-one years ago, Snyder was in an eerily similar position, only he was the one walking up to the line.

On Nov. 7, 1992, unbeaten Westmar and Mount Savage played to a 1-1 draw after 100 minutes of soccer in the boys Class 1A West Region finals, and the similarities went far beyond a score.

Westmar, coached by Dave Hobel and led by area scoring leader Justin Kiddy, had one Todd Snyder and Shane Lamberson on the team — and both made penalty kicks in the 11-shot format, a 6-3 win.

Fast forward to now, and Todd Snyder's daughter, Sydney, is arguably the area's best player and is teammates with Lamberson's daughters, Rhegan and Taylor, who all played significant roles in this Mountain Ridge title team on Wednesday.

There was also a likeness in the weather, although Wednesday was like a warm summer day compared to the blustery, snow-covered field the '92 team played on at Beall High School, with temperatures that dipped into the '20s.

The stadium at Beall was located on the present site of Mountain Ridge High School — a short walk from Miners Stadium, where the game was played Wednesday.

Even the ebbs and flows of the game was analogous.

In 1992, unbeaten Westmar fell behind 1-0 at the half following Ryan Kennell's score in the 38th minute, and it took an unlikely response from Jamie Blubaugh, his first goal of the season, with 6:29 remaining to force overtime.

The favored Mountain Ridge girls, with a 15-1 record, fell behind with 25 minutes to play after Allegany ace Avery Miller tapped in a score.

There was perhaps a different feeling of Déjà vu on the Mountain Ridge sideline, as the Miners fell to Allegany in a similar fashion in last year's region championship — 1-0 in overtime following an Ellena Nelson score.

But it wasn't sudden death extra time like a year ago, and Mountain Ridge had a chance to respond, and respond it did. Allie Knieriem leveled the tally five minutes later, and the game headed to overtime.

After 20 minutes of scoreless action, penalty kicks decided the game.

Mountain Ridge's success at that stage wasn't the eery coincidence it may have seemed to be — Todd Snyder's past experience had a lot to do with it.

He was part of a 1989 Westmar team as a freshman that fell to Clear Spring on penalties in the playoffs.

"Coach Hobel said we were never going to lose on penalty kicks again, and we constantly did them in practice," Snyder said.

It came in handy against Mount Savage four years later.

Justin Kiddy, Brian Broadwater and Snyder scored for a 3-0 Westmar lead. John Durst and Kenny Reed answered for Savage to trim the margin to 3-2.

Shane Lamberson, Keith Broadwater and Brett Coleman converted for Westmar in the next sequence, and Steve Winebrenner's tally was the final for George Bishields' Mount Savage team.

Goalkeeper Scott Llewellyn's save after Coleman's kick ended the game.

So, when Snyder became the Mountain Ridge girls soccer coach, that experience stayed with him.

There's a reason Mountain Ridge holds a penalty kick shootout event at its early-season tournament, and the team has been practicing PKs for the past three weeks in preparation for a night like Wednesday.

But all that practice seemingly went by the wayside after both Allegany and Mountain Ridge drilled their first five attempts Wednesday.

One make and one miss would decide who advanced and who went home, and nerves played a major factor.

There was also at WWE moment at 5-5, when Miller was subbed into goal to try and make Allegany's first save of the shootout — a position she hasn't been in since middle school.

Miller added another chapter to her legend as one of this area's great athletes by making the stop, setting up a must-save scenario for Mountain Ridge keeper Taylor Lamberson.

"I felt pretty confident as a player," Todd Snyder said. "Last night, I was fine going through, but once we missed, it was kind of a helpless feeling that you have for the kids. You just need someone to step up and make a play."

Lamberson stepped up and made the save to her left, and so too did Norah Patterson, who converted for a 6-5 lead.

Lamberson then swatted away the ensuing try to her right and the celebration was on.

The region title is Mountain Ridge's second in three years, and the Miners are looking to make the championship for the first time since 2010 when they were runner-ups.

No area girls soccer team has ever captured a state championship since the state began awarding titles in the sport in 1989. The MPSSAA didn't have four classes until 1998.

The Snyder and Lamberson connection has helped produce some of the greatest success in girls basketball and soccer in Mountain Ridge High School history.

Last winter, Sydney Snyder, Bayleigh Lamberson and Rhegan Lamberson were starters on the first Mountain Ridge team to advance to the basketball state championship game — repeating what their fathers did with Westmar in '93.

Snyder was named area Player of the Year after the season, something her father never did.

"It's pretty special," said Todd Snyder. "It's funny how a lot of the things that I had an opportunity to experience, Syd has almost duplicated that same experience in the same part of her career.

"It's amazing how generational these things are with families in small communities. I was teammates with Shane, we were the same age, and now Syd and Rhegan have that bond. Last year it was Rhegan and Bayleigh, now it's Rhegan and Taylor.

"It's kind of neat that they and their families and grandparents can share those same things."

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.