MIFFLINTOWN - Capitalizing on Upper Dauphin's youth made it easy for Juniata to look better in Wednesday's 9-0 Tri-Valley League girls soccer win over the Trojans.
For the Indians - who will likely have to start the District 6 Class AA tournament with a play-in game early next week - the real victory was how well the youthful squad was able to work together, and how many of the youngsters were involved directly in the outcome.
"We talked about that at halftime," Juniata coach Brian Strawser said. "We've got to take something out of this game that we can use, that can help us in the near future. We tried to challenge them with a couple things."
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Juniata’s Micheh Horning, left, and Upper Dauphin’s Aleena Mace fight for possession of the ball during their Tri-Valley League soccer match in Mifflintown Wednesday.
The Trojans - who count 14 freshman on their roster, about half - lack the experience and teamwork that were developed at Juniata long before this group got to the beginning of the season, much less the end. And it showed with the way the two teams handled the ball on the field.
Juniata had sharp passing, solid footwork and a willingness to pursue the ball rather than wait for it. Upper Dauphin was hesitant, at times all but standing around waiting for something to happen. And most of the offensive opportunities the Trojans had were not developed, but resulted from the few mistakes the Indians made with the ball.
While the team's senior class, Lauren Baublitz, scored the first goal of each half, it was junior Micheh Horning and Christen Baublitz, in her first year, who had the impact in this game.
"We always try to look to be not one-sided, always trying to create something new," Strawser said. "I thought tonight we got a lot of people that did that. That's what we're going to have to do - you can't just rely on one person. They all did a really good job of using each other."
The third tally, which was the last of the first half, came off Horning's foot as she sent a well-aimed laser across the front of the net. Trojan keeper Katie Schenk, whose play was sound for most of the game despite the score, was looking for defensive help that never came - a persistent problem that led to much of the later scoring.
Horning was in the right place at the right time to send a rebound into the twine for her second, and made it a hat trick with the final goal of the game. Strawser said she's been a key to the team's success since he wised up and moved her to the wing.
"Earlier in the year we had her playing in a different position and that was my fault. Since we moved her it's really played to her style game," he said. "I like to think she's our little secret. She's got very good speed. When she strikes it well, she really lets it go."
The younger Baublitz made her impression on the visitors with great setup play. She took a cross from Janelle Swartz and delivered for the second Juniata goal, and put her head on the ball for a successful corner kick in the second half. She also had two assists in the game.
"The thing that has impressed me so much - and she's a freshman - is how hard she has gone," Strawser said. "She hasn't let the fact that she's gone up against juniors and seniors and sometimes bigger girls intimidate her at all."
Against Upper Dauphin, she pressured the ball well, he said, something she's become known for of late.
"That hard physical play has created a lot of opportunities for a lot of people," he said.
Upper Dauphin only had two real chances to score in the game, and only one resulted in a shot. Midway through the second, the Trojans' Marlee Mattern brought the ball upfield for the first try, but Juniata's Jenna Bretz turned away her effort. Mattern had a breakaway later that went wide; the game ended without Juniata goalie Joelle Winey touching the ball for anything other than placement for goal kicks.
Juniata (10-5-1, 9-2-1) will see the Trojans again Saturday in Elizabethville.