Little Lions play spoiler to MC again
State College scores twice in second half
HUNTINGDON — When most teams go into a season expecting to rebuild, finishing with a winning record and playing in a district championship is a hard reality to create. But that is exactly what the Mifflin County Huskies accomplished this season.
It ended Thursday at Juniata College.
Mifflin County faced off against the State College Little Lions for the District 6 Class 3A championship and a spot in the District 3 tournament. The Huskies were seeded higher in that district’s power rankings, but the Little Lions were victorious where it counted in a 3-1 win on a cold autumn night.
From the first minutes, State College came out playing aggressive field hockey. Mifflin County started with the ball, but the Little Lions took possesion and advanced into Huskies’ territory, where the action stayed for a majority of the first half.
The Little Lions made a push on several ocassions and each time, the Huskies pushed right back. But, every time Mifflin County made a nice defensive play, they never possessed the ball long enough to create a scoring opportunity.
State High’s Lizzie Paterno finally broke through the Huskies’ defense, scoring the first goal of the game with 24:57 left in the first half.
The Little Lions seemed determined to add to their lead as they immediately took the ball into Huskies’ territory. Mifflin County’s goalie, Coletta Beeler, dove to make a save, and her defense backed her up, deflecting two more shots from the attacking Little Lions.
The first half consisted of State College pushing the ball into Mifflin County territory, and the Huskies making solid plays to stop any momentum for the Little Lions.
The State College offense was the beneficiary of a quick and stingy defense. Whenever Mifflin County found itself advancing toward the goal, the defense would swarm and take back possession of the ball. This led to State College dominating the time of possession in the first half.
Despite the high-intesity play from the Little Lions, Mifflin County only trailed 1-0 at the half.
“Mifflin County didn’t make it to districts last year, so we had a lot of girls on the field tonight that hadn’t been in this intense of a game situation,” Huskies coach Ashley Suydam said.
The Husky offense came to life in the second half, creating more scoring opportunities and putting pressure on State College. Alyssa Lynch put two great moves on a couple of Little Lions but couldn’t get a shot off before another defender knocked the ball away.
Just minutes later, Keni Kahley put a shot on goal off of a corner, but Little Lions goalie Bayla Furmanek made the save.
Mifflin County took quality shots but couldn’t find the back of the goal until there was about 18 minutes left in regulation. Coming out of a timeout, the Huskies were on the attack when the Little Lions swarmed around the ball. After a few seconds, the ball popped into the air and found its way into the back of the goal.
The Huskies celebrated as the referees met to discuss if the goal was legal. The officials awarded Mifflin County the game tying goal.
Hailee Sheetz was credited with the score.
However, State College rallied and took a 2-1 lead less than two minutes after Sheetz and the Huskies tied the game. Beeler dove to make a save, but the Lions passed the ball around her and Libby Fortin put it in the back of the goal.
Mifflin County spent the next 13 minutes scrambling to tie up the game. Kahley created a fast break for herself, with just the goalie to beat. Furmanek ran out of the goal and slid at Kahley, kicking the ball away in a risky move that ultimately paid off.
With 4:37 remaining in the game, the Little Lions iced the game with a goal from Rebecca Bonness. The goal gave State College a comfortable 3-1 lead.
Mifflin County made a valiant effort to make a comeback, playing two penalty corners in the final minutes, but was unable to close the gap.
“We didn’t make the necessary adustments quick enough,” Suydam said. “We’ve played State College, so we were familiar with them. We just didn’t make the adjustments tonight.”
As time expired, State College stormed onto the field, as a young Huskies team returned to the bench. Suydam was proud of the way her team fought to get back into this game, and of the intensity they brought in the second half.
“Our seniors, Keni Kahley, Halle Kerstetter, Lizzy Miller … we were hoping to get this win for them. But, that’s just how it goes some times.”
With such a young core of players, it took Mifflin County most of the first half to get used to the big stage, the weather, and playing on turf.
“The second half, especially, was much better,” Suydam said. “I think there was a lot of nerves in the first half. Everyone was so worked up, they were excited to play, then we settled down and had some opportunites.”
In what Suydam referred to as a rebuilding season, the future of Mifflin County field hockey appears headed in the right direciton.
“We knew this year was going to be a rebuilding year, so (I am) super proud that we came out with a winning record and made it to districts,” Suydam said.
Mifflin County finishes the season at 10-9.
State College 3, Mifflin County 1
SC–Lizzie Paterno (Rebecca Bonness), 24:57.
MC–Hailee Sheetz, 18:25. SC–Libby Fortin (Sarah Shallanberger), 16:40. SC–Bonness (Leah Moyer), 4:18.
Shots: SC 11-4. Corners: SC 9-3. Saves: MC-6 (Coletta Beeler), SC-2 (Bayla Furmanek).