East Juniata proves to be tough out for Southern Columbia

BLOOMSBURG – After dominating play for the most of the afternoon, Southern Columbia suddenly found itself tied with East Juniata late in regulation. But Haley Levan would come to the rescue. Her header past East Juniata goalkeeper Lydia Hunter with 2:51 left gave Southern a 2-1 victory in a battle of Tigers.

“I knew sooner or later I was going to get a header in,” Levan said. “I was so glad it finally came so we could win. Getting the winning goal was like the best thing in the world. It was much needed. I knew we were going to score, but I wasn’t sure when.”

Levan’s confidence was well-founded. Southern Columbia (17-1-1) had countless chances to get on the scoreboard throughout the afternoon. Southern Columbia outshot East Juniata 14-2 in the opening half, but the game remained scoreless thanks to the play of Hunter who was nothing short of stellar in goal.

“(Hunter) stepped her game up bigtime,” East Juniata coach Lori Goodling said.

The pressure continued from Southern in the second half. Bailey Bzdak had a shot that Hunter made a diving save on. Mackenzie Clark followed that with a shot off the rebound that went just wide.

No. 9 seed East Juniata (11-8) was under constant attack from Southern Columbia. But the top seed was able to mount a scoring chance when McKayla Goodling outraced a defender to the ball and rolled a shot wide of goalkeeper Abbey Herr.

Finally on the 22nd shot of the game for Southern Columbia, freshman Christina Podpora got one past Hunter after a scramble in front of the net with 14:33 left.

Just when Southern Columbia seemed in total control, East Juniata fought back. Amber Knouse scored after receiving a good bounce off a corner kick that evened things up with less than five minutes left.

“Our defense held up well,” Goodling said. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle. It was great to get the equalizer. We just told our girls to work for 80 minutes, and I thought they did that.”

Going against the wind in the second half, Southern Columbia wasn’t going to sit back and play for overtime and continued to be aggressive.

Alyssa Stavinski took a corner kick with three minutes left that led to Levan’s game winner off an assist from Madelyn Stabinski.

“She’s great using her head,” Southern Columbia coach Derek Stine said of Levan. “She just needed a chance to get her head on it. She did a great job. We told her it was coming. We told the players at halftime ‘It’s there. It’s coming.'”

East Juniata was unable to generate any scoring chances in the final moments as Southern Columbia’s defense held up and preserved the win.

“We just needed to pick it up,” Levan said. “We weren’t playing as good as we were in the first half. But we definitely needed to pick it up and I think we did that. We didn’t want it to be the seniors last game and we didn’t want to lose like that.”