STATE COLLEGE - Even after 50 minutes of play, everybody seemed to know that a one-goal lead wasn't going to last in the District 6 Class AAA field hockey championship.
One person who used that knowledge to her - and State College's - advantage was Lauren Bonness. The Little Lion forward scored the tying goal and assisted on the winner as State College ended Mifflin County's season, 2-1.
Mifflin County coach Tish Maclay certainly tried to warn her team that the field hockey equivalent of the prevent defense was not going to help the defending district champs into another state bracket. But after a first half in which the Huskies played a punishing offensive game, the second half was anything but.
Sentinel photo by JEFF FISHBEIN
Mifflin County’s Whitney Strohecker strokes a goal as State College’s Taylor Meily defends during the District 6 Class AAA Championship game Thursday in State College.
"And we talked to the girls about that - that's exactly what we talked about," Maclay said. "There's a big difference mentally between playing not to lose and playing to win. One goal was not going to be enough for us - and it wasn't."
Despite being a bit eager at the outset, which led to occasional overruns and hard hits that made it difficult to maintain possession, the Huskies were dominant for most of the first 30 minutes. They aggressively pursued the ball, forced obstruction, drew penalty corners and played most of the half inside the 18 at their shooting end.
"But we got two shots - and that's something that we've been talking to this team about all season," Maclay said. "I thought we dominated them. I thought we took advantage of what they offered us."
In the first half. But after the break?
"The second half they came out on fire and we played back on our heels," she said.
Still, the team took a 1-0 lead into the break after Whitney Strohecker converted a corner 10 minutes into the contest. Sara Neff put the ball on the circle and Kezia Loht sent it across to Strohecker for the textbook goal.
But as the half approached, the Little Lions started to spread the field better, possessed the ball more consistently and as the clock stopped for the final minute, got their first corner of the game.
And after one great chance for the Huskies early in the second - Sam Peters crossed a pass to Hannah Kerstetter in front of the cage, but Kerstetter couldn't turn it back in - the tide began to turn.
The Bonness goal came with 8:07 to play, a rebound of her own shot off the pads of Mifflin County keeper Jordan Myers, who was essentially one-on-one with Bonness in the circle.
"The first goal they scored, we let them take uncontested shots," Maclay said. "She had all the time she wanted to pick her spot, and she hit it."
Five minutes later, Bonness delivered the killer to Kathryn Henry, who was able to get the ball behind Myers at the bear post. Even with time on the clock, there seemed little the Huskies could do after that.
For Maclay, it will mark the third year she'll be saying goodbye to a fairly strong class of seniors, but the first time in several years she won't be hanging district medals around their necks. Seven seniors - the young guns, they called themselves four years ago at Indian Valley - five of whom are full-time starters played their last game for a Mifflin County school.
"You take Sam Peters, whose led our team in scoring the last two years; Whitney Strohecker, who sets up a lot of assists; Macie Lucas, who does a great job on the right side for us; and Sabrina Boring, who plays in the middle as a center link and generates a lot of offensive play for us," Maclay said - and there are more.
"You've got Mary Havice back on defense, who's been a mainstay on defense pretty much her whole career. Those five starters, it's tough to lose them," she said. "Sierra Smith came back for her senior year, and Allison Stuck, her career was ended by injuries, but a great work ethic. It's going to be tough to replace them."