Lions win, take third in ACAA

BELLEFONTE – Only a few teams get to end their season with a victory.

On Saturday, the Juniata Mennonite boys soccer team became one of them. The Lions were successful in the third-place game of the Allegheny Christian Athletic Association tournament, shutting out Great Commission 4-0 at Centre County Christian School.

The Lions’ Kaleb King had an assist and a goal for Juniata in the victory.

Before the season started, the one of the Lions’ team goals was to make it to the postseason which they just missed last year. It was mission accomplished and then some with the third-place finish.

“We are pleased with a third-place finish. We would have rather played for the championship, obviously,” Juniata Mennonite coach Kurt Wagner said. “Once again, I will praise the boys in the direction in the way I enjoy praising them when they are down, we don’t give up. We have a lot of character on this team. They have a great Christ-like character that we desire from our school and that’s what I am most proud of them for.”

Juniata picked up its first goal early, a goal by Ashton Martin. Fewer than five minutes into the game, King hit teammate Martin in transition and Martin blasted it past the Bears goal keeper.

After the goal by Martin, the Lions’ offense had the early spark that they needed and went right into the Great Commission back third and attempted to find another crack in the Bears defense.

It took 13 minutes, but Tony Gehman sped his way past the Bears defender and scored the second goal of the game, upping the lead to a comfortable 2-0.

But the Bears weren’t going to go away easily. Great Commission pushed the ball down into the Juniata Mennonite side and tried desperately to poke one through the defenders and goalie Jacob Metz.

Despite what the Bears were sending at them, the Lions defense was stingy and refused to let Great Commission have even a good look at the goal. On each of the pressure offensives that the Bears attempted the defenders and sweepers were able to send them away, empty handed and frustrated.

When the first half ended, the Lions held the 12-6 advantage in shots. In the second half, the shot attempts slowed down dramatically as the Lions sere just 40 minutes away from the victory and slowed down the pace despite the Bears’ attempt to take control of the tempo of the game and a possible comeback attempt.

With 25:05 left in the game the Bears’ loss was the Lions’ gain when a mistakenly kicked shot went into the own goal, helping Juniata Mennonite increase its lead to 3-0.

Along with holding the Bears to only three second-half shots, Juniata Mennonite had one more insurance policy to add to its lead.

The Lions’ final goal of the year came from King, who was at the right place at the right time to pick up a rebound of a Gehman shot that hit the side pipe and right into his possession. King sent it right in, ending the scoring at 4-0.

With the victory, the Lions finish their season with a 13-6 record.