MIFFLINTOWN - Unable to complete a scoring play through 24 minutes of play Wednesday, Mifflin County exploded for three goals in a span of fewer than two minutes, propelling the Huskies toward a 4-0 shutout over Juniata in Tri-Valley League field hockey.
Leading the way for the Huskies was Madison Saxton, who notched a goal and an assist in the contest.
Despite being out shot 18-1 in the first half, the Juniata defense proved it could keep Mifflin County out of the goal and did so for much of the first half. Starting a line up of mostly underclassman, Mifflin County led off the game with control of the ball and directly went to the heart of the Indians' defense.
Sentinel photo by JEFF FISHBEIN
Mifflin County’s Hannah Kerstetter, left, drives upfield against Juniata’s Megan Yeager in Mifflintown Wednesday. Trailing the play is Juniata’s Zoe Zagurskie.
"We had a lot of potential in this game tonight. Right now is just about getting a little consistency in our game," Mifflin County coach Tish Maclay said.
Among the things she said her team still needs work on are not playing in spurts and coming out and playing a whole game.
"They're still learning and trying to make adjustments," she said. "They're need to learn the game and to see what options the other team is giving us without us having to tell them. It's a learning process."
On the plus side, she said, the game offered her a chance to get more players on the field, many of whom have not seen an abundance of varsity minutes this year.
After the initial drive, Juniata quickly returned the favor and took the ball quickly into Mifflin County's end. However, the visit was brief as Hannah Kerstetter took the ball down the field on a breakaway but shot it just wide left of the goal.
That proved to be a highlight for the home team.
After limited time of possession in the Mifflin County defensive third, the Indians found themselves on the defensive early and often as the Huskies began to pound the ball away at Juniata goalie Shanna Hart. Hart was up for the challenge as she collected a total of nine saves in the first half, helping keep Mifflin County's offense under control.
But the game started to change as the clock got down to the 10-minute mark. Mifflin County's shots were getting closer and closer to finding their way into the cage. Nothing exemplified that more than a shot by Mifflin County's Paige Mathews, who smacked a rocket at the Juniata goal, only to have it hit the post and bounce away.
But with 5:23 left in the half, things all changed. Saxton found teammate Sam Peters with a pass in the goal area. Peters made the most of the opportunity and shot it home, making it 1-0.
Before anyone had a chance to blink, the Huskies were at it again. This time Macie Lucas hit Saxton on the pass and Saxton put Mifflin County up by two with 4:46 left.
And the Huskies weren't quite done yet - they managed yet a third goal before the buzzer.
With 3:51 left, Whitney Strohecker put away a solo goal, putting Mifflin County in a comfortable spot before the intermission, upping the lead to 3-0.
"We let down at the end of the first half," Juniata coach Nikki Bailey said. "That's all it took for them to capitalize on it. They are strong enough team that they will take advantage of things if you let down at all."
In the second half, the Indians defense stepped up allowed only eight more Mifflin County shots, along with a goal by Allison Fox with 4:45 left.
The second half was filled with numerous Mifflin County corner opportunities. When the game concluded, Mifflin County totaled 24 penalty corners. Mifflin County used its defense as a strong offense refusing, to let the Indians down in its territory for any long periods of time.
"We knew coming into the game they were going to be a strong team," Bailey said. "I can't complain with a 4-0 loss. We made improvements, we still need to step in some spots. However, we played our hearts out.
Juniata (0-5, 0-5) hosts East Juniata today. Mifflin County (4-3, 3-1) travel to Greenwood for a key TVL matchup tonight.