HOLLIDAYSBURG - Heading into Juniata's District 6 semifinal matchup with Somerset, the Indians knew they would have to work without a full game from lone senior Lauren Baublitz.
But believe it or not, Baublitz had a chance to tickle the twine just 45 seconds in. Unfortunately for the Indians, Baublitz's shot was denied, and she would have to leave the game after aggravating the injury.
But thanks to a freshman another Baublitz Juniata returns to the District 6 Class AA final following a 2-0 win over Somerset Thursday in Hollidaysburg.
It basically took one goal to take down the Eagles, and that would come early off the foot of the freshman Christen Baublitz. The goal was midway through the first half. The rest of the game was played between the 18s up until the final two minutes, when Baublitz added her second goal of the game.
"Tonight, the result is all that matters," Juniata coach Brian Strawser said. "Our Achilles heel kind of came back. Tonight we just came out with a slow, sluggish start. They were a physical team, and I'm fine with that."
The Indians will go on to play Forest Hills at 3 p.m. Saturday in Hollidaysburg for the District 6 Class AA final. Forest Hills was a 2-0 winner over Bedford on Thursday. Juniata is looking for its third straight district championship.
IF YOU GO
Juniata plays Forest Hills Saturday in Hollidaysburg
And thanks to some stellar play in goal for Juniata, Somerset couldn't find the net although the Eagles had 17 shots to Juniata's 12.
Juniata keeper Joelle Winey was forced to stop seven shots in the first half, all of which were pretty good looks from the Eagles.
Somerset went on a 10-minute spurt midway through the first half that should have led to an Eagles' goal, but didn't.
"She was good," Somerset coach Renee Ross said. "If only we would have capitalized on our early chances. I know we outshot them and matched them skill wise. We just couldn't sneak one in.
"Unfortunately we got that early goal and just couldn't come back."
Winey finished with 10 saves. Strawser said she saved at least four Somerset goals in the first 40 minutes of play.
"Joelle saved us in the first half," he said. "No ifs, ands or buts about it. She saved us four times at least. She came up huge."
The Eagles seemed to control most of the first half. The home team on the scoreboard, the Eagles played more aggressively and were much bigger than the Juniata squad. But that didn't stop the Indians from hanging onto the scoreless tie, until Baublitz broke it.
"We had our opportunities they were there we just couldn't capitalize," Ross said. "I'm disappointed obviously in the outcome, I'm never disappointed in my team."
After the Indians were starting to maintain possession in their own zone, Baublitz worked hard to get in position in front of Somerset keeper Hope Griffith. And nearly 20 minutes after she took over for her sister in the midfield, the Indians were on the scoreboard 1-0.
"Christen Baublitz did a good job finishing that first opportunity she had," Strawser said. "It was the first game she was playing in the middle there without Lauren."
From the kick off, the game was physical something Strawser expected and was okay with. But it would take another 68 minutes for the Indians to completely ice the game.
The Eagles continued to press the Indians all the way into the second half. With more opportunities, and better looks at the goal, Somerset was on the net. It just couldn't find a clear look through Winey.
Brianna Trent had a few looks early for the Eagles but couldn't capitalize. Just after the opening kick, Trent was left open on the right just outside the box. Her shot went wide.
Just a minute later, Madison McKinley, Lexy Pucci and Hannah Sembower each had opportunities to get one past Winey, but couldn't.
"They did everything I wanted them to do," Ross said. "They played really hard all season and did everything I asked."
The second half was much like the first. Somerset continued to play better than the Indians, but nothing would go in. Finally, with less than two minutes to play, Baublitz finished off the Eagles with a goal off of Juniata's second corner of the game.
Following the elder Baublitz's injury, the Indians were left with no seniors on the field and four freshman. That's a testament to the young skill set this Juniata team has.
"We played 79 minutes without any seniors on the field and four freshman," Strawser said. "We could throw a lot of things out there to why we didn't look good tonight, but we're not going to."