Tigers rip Hawks for girls crown

ELIZABETHVILLE — It was evident from the beginning that East Juniata was going to outplay Susquenita in every facet of the game Thursday in the Tri-Valley League girls soccer championship.

The equation of better passing, better footwork, faster players and having to play little defense equated to an 8-0 Tigers’ win and gives them back-to-back TVL championships.

The Tigers finished the regular season with an unblemished 18-0 record (19-0 after the title game). They went a perfect 13-0 in the league. They now await further details for the District 4 playoff tournament, in which they are expected to be the top seed.

Both Kierstyn Fogle and Leah Sankey directed the offensive onslaught, each recording a hat trick in the first half.

Two of Fogle’s goals came off corners with Carly Beaver lobbing the ball perfectly in front of the net and Fogle getting her head on the ball.

“They are getting very good with finishing corners,” East Juniata coach Val Dressler said. “We work a lot on set pieces. We just worked basically on everything all year round — divining, working the ball outside, inside — so they’re starting to really listen to us.”

That’s precisely what opened up the game’s scoring and gave Fogle her hat trick.

Between all that, Fogle showed off her speed by getting past two defenders and creating a one-on-one situation with Blackhawks’ goalkeeper Maura Bradney. Fogle won that matchup with the unassisted goal.

As for Sankey, she first got on the board more than halfway through the first half when receiving a cross pass that started with Fogle before Hailey Swartz directed the ball for Sankey to make a top-shelf goal.

Roughly three minutes later she made the most of a second opportunity when Bradney made a diving save on a shot by Thea Neimond. Bradney didn’t corral the ball and Sankey came in for the close-range goal.

In the half’s final minutes, she was on the receiving end of a perfect pass from Swartz, who getting closed in by a pair of defenders. Sankey had no competition on the kick to give herself the hat trick.

“That is one of the biggest things that we like. Every game there’s always different girls scoring,” Dressler said. “Every game, you never hear the same person scoring either so that’s been really fun this year — everybody excited to score and everyone being hungry for a goal.”

Thea Neimond had some similar luck to that of Fogle, but instead of picking a teammate up on a shot, she made the most of her own opportunity.

With her initial kick hitting off a Susquenita defender, the ball bounced right back into the direction of Neimond who then found the back right corner of the goal for the Tigers’ second goal of the contest.

The final goal for the Tigers was thanks in large by two girls who didn’t get the starting nod but transitioned into the plan of attack nicely.

Emily Wert worked her way down the field and had great vision to see that Brianna Henry was left wide open in front of goal. Henry got off the uncontested shot to put the mercy rule into effect for the rest of the game.

The Tigers may not have scored anymore after that, but they certainly kept the pressure mounted squarely on Bradney and the Blackhawks’ defense.

East Juniata finished with 23 shots in the contest with 13 of them being struck in the first half.

The Tigers’ offensive attack was so dominant that their own goalkeeper Kayla Forry was often seen hanging around the 18 for much of the contest. She only had to make a pair of saves – both in the second half – and touched the ball a total of six times.

None of that has Dressler worried heading into districts. After all, Forry has proven herself against some of the better competition the Tigers have seen this year. It also doesn’t hurt to have the offensive striking abilities that the team possessed all season long.

“It can be concerning, but our defense is doing excellent being offensive as well,” she said. “They’re doing really well with recovering for each other. Our outside backs, when they get forward, we always have someone covering back for them. It doesn’t concern me right now because they know mentally, they have to cover back. (Forry) had a great game actually on Monday with Southern (Columbia) — performed so well.”

East Juniata 8, Susquenita 0

First half

EJ–Kierstyn Fogle (Carly Beaver), 36:46; EJ–Thea Neimond, 24:57; EJ–Leah Sankey (Fogle, Hailey Swartz), 18:30; EJ–Fogle, 16:02; EJ–Sankey, 15:17; EJ–Fogle (Neimond), 12:14; EJ–Sankey (Swartz), 2:43; EJ–Brianna Henry (Emily Wert), 0:25.

Shots: EJ 23-2. Corners: EJ 11-0. Saves: S-15 (Maura Bradley); EJ-2 (Kayla Forry).