HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Juniata girls soccer team has gotten the best of Forest Hills in the last two District 6 Class AA championships.
Unfortunately for the Indians, the third time was the charm for the Rangers.
Juniata scored a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead late in regulation, but Forest Hills netted the equalizer before time expired and was able to earn the district crown in the seventh round of penalty kicks Saturday at Hollidaysburg's Tiger Stadium.
"There were a lot of highs and lows," Juniata coach Brian Strawser said. "But I'm so proud of this group with their resilience. When (Forest Hills) took a 1-0 lead, we could have really hung our heads.
"When you get on to a stage like that, where the spotlight is on you on a PK, you never know what's going to happen because they're so young. I'm just so proud of the fact that we got this far this year. I think we have a bright future."
The loss marked the end of Juniata's season. Only the winner advances from District 6 into the state bracket.
Forest Hills' Marlee Zubek, the eighth shooter in the penalty kicks, was the first to get on the board and made Carly Burns the Indians' last hope.
Like she did in regulation to give Juniata a 2-1 lead, Burns beat Ranger keeper Megan Ross to keep her team in it.
Goalie Joelle Winey then saved Briana Kostan's shot to force a golden goal situation in the second round of PKs.
The first three attempts all failed, but Ranger defender Kayla Walls gave her team the district title that had been so elusive prior to her right boot.
"We've practiced PKs the last two weeks and we've had 10 different girls taking them every practice just for this purpose," Strawser said. "In the playoffs, you've got to have a winner. It's such a big pressure situation. To put a kid in that situation is tough, but you have to have a winner. They finished the one they needed and they deserved to win."
After a scoreless first half in which Strawser's squad dictated much of the tempo, the Rangers got on the board first when Kostan sent a shot from just inside the right half of the 18 to the far corner. The shot was placed perfectly passed an outstretched Winey to give Forest Hills the lead.
Janelle Swartz and Burns erased the deficit and gave the Indians a short-lived advantage. Swartz's shot was beyond the 18 and got passed Ross in similar fashion to Kostan's tally, while Burns took a pass from Christen Baublitz and beat Ross top shelf.
"When we tied it up, I thought we'd take the momentum for the rest of the game," Strawser said. "When we took the lead, I felt really good. Unfortunately, we had a little lapse there."
The Indians celebrated the lead, but Forest Hills' Casey Gallaher put a stop to their jubilation. Gallaher, who has more than 100 career goals, scored the game-tying goal just 78 seconds after Burns put Juniata ahead.
"What a great player that Gallaher is. I know she's a Division I recruit and has over 110 goals in her career," Strawser said. "Forest Hills is very good. It's something to play against one girl with 100 career goals, but very rare to find a team with two players. I thought we played them very well. It's encouraging for the kids that are coming back."