Too many Tigers

EJ girls find trouble with second straight same-named opponent

Sentinel photo by JIMMY MAY East Juniata’s Eleana Benner, right, keeps the ball from Benton’s Jaylin Classen during the first half of Tuesday night’s District 4 Class A semifinal game at Central Columbia High School.

ALMEDIA — In the game’s first 15 minutes, it looked like East Juniata’s and Benton’s District 4 Class A girls soccer semifinal game would be an offensive shootout.

That remained true only for Benton, which won the game 5-1, eliminating East Juniata in the second meeting in a row between the Tigers — the ones from Juniata County — and another team called the Tigers.

Benton plays Warrior Run Thursday for the district championship.

“This is my first year and it’s absolutely amazing,” Benton coach Billy Pasukinis said. “The whole season, we believed and knew they had potential to do it and now they’re finally realizing they’re not bad. They’re a good team.”

East Juniata outshot Benton 20-11, but thanks to some great goalkeeping by Dana Kingsbury, that never wound up hurting Benton.

Kingsbury was in on a scary play early when East Juniata’s Madison McDonald collided with the goalie. Kingsbury was able to get up and run off the field on her own a minute later; McDonald was less fortunate and did not return to the game.

Benton went on an offensive attack for majority of the first half.

Jaylen Clossen got a kick to the left side of the goal, well out of reach of East Juniata’s goalkeeper Erin Heimbach to get the scoring going.

Little more than two minutes later, Dominique Brown gave Benton a 2-0 advantgae, scoring a top shelf goal with Heimbach on the ground after making a save on a shot by Emma Wyllie seconds beforehand.

“Their weakness was their outside flanks and we utilized that well,” Pasukinis said. “We used the outside of the field well.”

East Juniata, attempting to make a comeback, got a goal thanks to a rocket kick from Hailey Swartz that sailed 30 yards and Kingsbury couldn’t react in time.

“They never gave up the whole time, even though they were down,” East Juniata coach Lori Goodling said. “That’s what you want to see when you’re at that point.”

The rich could have gotten richer with Benton, which picked up two penalty kicks on two trips in the box. Heimbach blocked Landree Wilkins’ kick on a diving play to the left in the game’s first minute.

Sarah Kerstetter later missed high and right on her attempt later in the first half.

“That’s a confidence boost whenever they do that,” Goodling said. “The girls were just as proud as we were when that happened.”

Benton didn’t let those two opportunities get to them and had a big second half.

Kingsbury made 10 of her 19 saves in the second half, and Benton’s offense complemented that by scoring two goals.

Miya Roman scored the first goal after Heimbach crept up in the box, attempting to make a play on the ball, and it got by her. Roman had an easy, wide-open goal to tap the ball into.

Thirteen minutes later, with a group of players out in front of East Juniata’s goal, Cecelia Huntington was able to get the ball out to Emma Wyllie to give Benton its fourth goal of the night.