LEWISTOWN - Against an opponent that pretty well clobbered Mifflin County a year ago, a scoreless tie after 40 minutes of soccer - especially with two girls off the field after freak injuries - had to look pretty good to the Huskies.
When defending Commonwealth Division champ Cumberland Valley netted a pair of quick goals early in the second - and would have had a third had someone not been offside - the Eagles had all they needed to win the game.
But the 2-0 score - an eight-goal improvement over last year's home match - proved the Huskies are an improved lot.
Before the game, first-year coach Trevor Eckley told the Huskies he wanted 100 percent, win or lose. They took a more serious approach into the game, and gave it.
Mifflin County's problem was not a lack of passion - it was a lack of aggression. The Huskies were not as hesitant as they might have been a year ago, but they didn't step to the ball with the same automatic fluidity that Cumberland Valley showed.
"We've been talking about that - being aggressive, being the first one to the ball, stepping to the ball. That's one of our weak points right now," Eckley admitted. "And then when we win the ball slow it down, make the right pass and make the right play. We get into where we're forcing a lot of stuff."
Mifflin County hosts Red Land Saturday
The Eagles controlled play, forcing the backfield to do the heavy lifting with their first real scoring opportunity barely eight minutes into the game, when a shot was gathered between the knees of keeper Sage Heckendorn-Fike after a first effort knocked her down, then the defense deflected a pair of sharp corner kicks.
"Defense bailed us out today. We knew coming into the game it was going to have to be a defensive stand, and take our chances (on offense)," Eckley said.
Then came the moment no one wanted to see - Kaitlyn Eckley hit the ground hard, and after a lengthy delay was removed from the field for the day. As soon as play resumed, Kelsey Spicher turned an ankle and she, too, was finished. It created an opportunity for a pair of youngsters - Alyssa Johnson and Kelsie Kennedy replaced the starters - but it also left the Huskies at a point where Bryce Papp suddenly had to be about 80 percent of the offense.
"Obviously losing Kaitlyn, who is one of our biggest offensive weapons, hurts. And then losing Kelsey shortly after that to an ankle sprain - we had to really regroup and refigure our offense," Trevor Eckley said. "We had to count on (Johnson and Kennedy) to step up and play and they did - they did a really good job."
By the break, Cumberland Valley already had executed 13 of its 18 shots on goal, but the next two would be deadly. Lisa Nanov drilled one from the top of the box to break the stalemate a minute into the second; five minutes later, Jenny Bail sent one from the top corner of the box to make it 2-0.
A third ball from the top made it into the net eight minutes into the half, but the Eagles were offside.
"We talked about that. Against CD East we had a letdown in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Today we had a letdown of about the first 10 minutes," Eckley said. "I think part of that was the girls were really up for the girls that were injured and they played with a lot of heart. It's just tough when you have a little bit of a break to go back out. But once they got it back, they picked it up again."
Mifflin County (0-2, 0-2) hosts Red Land Saturday.