Bedford stages comeback on Indians

Sentinel photo by GARY BARANEC Juniata’s Brenna Strawser, left, and Bedord’s Amelia Beland fight for the ball Thursday at Altoona’s Mansion Park.

ALTOONA — Juniata High School’s Cinderella girls soccer season came to an end Thursday before midnight struck.

The Indians, seeded sixth in the Districts 5-6 Class 2A tournament, had knocked off No. 2 seed and defending champion Central on Monday night at Mansion Park, but their return trip to face top seed Bedford in Thursday’s title match was a bitter disappointment.

Juniata jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, scoring a pair of goals in the first 14 minutes, but the momentum turned quickly after intermission and Bedford rallied for a 3-2 victory.

It was the first district championship for Bedford, now 21-0 on the season.

“We have not liked halftimes all year,” Juniata coach Brian Strawser said. “We’ve had so many games this year where we played well the first half and came out the second half with little energy.

“For them to get that goal like that took so much wind out of  our sails … it turned the whole game around,” he said.

The goal Strawser was referring to was a 50-yarder by Bedford’s Emily Martz less than 30 seconds into the second half.

The ball bounced to Martz, a junior

defender, near midfield and she bounced it over the head of Juniata keeper Mahala Laub.

“I didn’t know I could kick it that far,” said Martz, noting it was only her third score of the season. “I think the wind helped it.”

That goal turned the game around as Bedford got two more goals to grab a 3-2 advantage with 26:37 to play.

“It absolutely shifted the momentum,” Strawser said.

Bedford coach Jeff Thomas agreed.

“It was a pretty good shot,” Thomas said, laughing. “It was over the 50-yard mark. I’ve seen a few goals that far. When I was coaching the boys team, we had a guy hit one from that far, maybe a little farther, but it was more from the side.”

At halftime, Thomas told his team to move up its defense and it worked.

“We started winning the ball more and possessing it, and then the goals started going in,” Thomas said.

Juniata jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Josie Swartz goal from 20 yards out that sailed over the head of Bedford keeper Katie Querry. The score came with the game less than four minutes old.

Ten minutes later, Sydney Shaeffer ripped a shot from the right side that bounced off Querry’s hands into the back of the net.

“I was a little apprehensive, but I told the kids it was only two goals and we made a couple of adjustments,” Thomas said.

Juniata couldn’t protect the 2-0 lead and Martz’s quick, long-range score early in the second half proved to be a game-changer.

The Bisons got a pair of scores from Allison Pittman and turned to their defense the rest of the way.

Juniata’s Swartz banged a shot off the post with 22 minutes left that could have tied the game and the Indians missed a direct kick with three minutes to go, again failing to tie the score.

“We got that from working hard,” Strawser said of the direct kick. “They don’t quit. They work hard to the end.”