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Fogle nets four goals in Tigers’ opener

MCALISTERVILLE–Normally any coach would be thrilled to win a game 6-0, especially given the circumstances of this season.

While East Juniata coach Val Dressler will take the win, she saw a lot of areas that her team needs to improve on in its win against Susquenita on Tuesday night.

“Of course, we’re always critiquing the girls to get better and I think it improved in the second half,” Dressler said. “It’s the critical, little things–touches, communication, movement off the ball–things we all talk about.”

Fine tuning their skills will be much more difficult for the Tigers than in previous seasons due to the compressed scheduled and the smaller roster size.

“It’s very unfortunate this year because we have 15 healthy girls, so it’s not like we have the opportunity to get to scrimmage full field,” Dressler said. “So (tonight’s game) is almost like a practice and its a learning experience more than that it was in past years.”

The Tigers lost some key goal scorers from last season’s district championship team, but returning is Kierstyn Fogle, who made her presence felt, exploding for four goals in the win.

“Definitely the level of effort,” Dressler said about what stood out to her about Fogle’s game. “Last year and the year before, it was really great because if she didn’t score, six other people might step up. This year, I know she’ll give 100 percent… of course we’re always expecting the other girls to step up.”

The other two Tigers’ goals were scored by girls who also stepped up last year and will be asked to do so again in Leah Sankey and Amara Brubaker. Sankey, no stranger to scoring goals, found the back of the net early in the second half to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead, while Brubaker put the icing on the cake with a last-minute goal.

The first half was frustrating for the Tigers, who dominated time of possession and had some open looks at the net, but couldn’t convert. The defense held strong for the most part, but would occasionally allow Susquenita to make a push toward the net. The Blackhawks almost got on the board first when miscommunication between the East Juniata defense allowed a Blackhawk to fire a shot on goal, but the shot missed wide left.

Despite the shut out, the Tigers yielded many scoring opportunities to the Blackhawks, which Dressler said the team needs to work on. However, with an injury to a defensive starter, two girls have been asked to step up in a position that they are not too familiar with yet.

“We need them to be more clinical and cleaner on the ball and they need to communicate rather than hesitating a little,” Dressler said about the defense. “I think Grace (Hibbs), our goalie, came up big with the saves, but those are the opportunities that should be taken away and they shouldn’t get those chances. But, it’s also a learning experience for those who haven’t played that position too much.”

Adding to the frustration was the Tigers inability to capitalize on their opportunities. East Juniata had plenty of shot attempts and five corner kicks but could not get on the board until Fogle broke the ice.

With a little over 14 minutes remaining in the first half, Brianna Henry fired a shot on goal that was saved. The ball spun on the ground in front of the goal and before the Blackhawks’ goalie could corral it, Fogle tapped it into the back right corner.

The Tigers’ second goal of the game came with just 24 seconds left in the half. Sankey placed a perfect pass to Fogle who was sprinting towards the goal. She took the pass in stride and rifled a shot into the right corner for her second goal of the night.

Coming out of the half, East Juniata was not content with its two-goal lead and looked to add more. After a few early attempts were stopped, Sankey scored her first goal of the season. The ball was shot at the net, clanged off the post, went to another Tigers attacker whose follow-up shot was saved by the goalie, and the rebound fell right to Sankey who ended the weird play with the third East Juniata goal.

In a two-minute span, Fogle scored her third and fourth goals of the night to put the game out of reach. Fogle’s third goal came on a slick left-footed shot and her fourth goal came after she weaved her way in and out of defenders before finding the back of the net.

Brubaker scored with 1:42 remaining to East Juniata’s goal total a half-dozen and the Tigers left with an opening game win.

With the tight schedule, the Tigers, as well as the whole Tri-Valley League will be asked to play games almost on a daily basis moving forward. Dressler mentioned that the team will have to adopt a new style of play just to prevent all of their players from burning out too quickly.

“I think it’ll be tougher as we go on, especially with the amount of games we have back-to-back-to-back, Dressler said. “I just don’t think our bodies will hold up.”

With all the critiquing and players taking on new roles, Dressler is pleased with the overall effort her girls showed. While there is room for improvement, seeing the girls enjoying themselves on the field was something that wasn’t guaranteed just a few weeks ago.

“I am happy,” Dressler said. “As long as they’re having fun and we get the result that we want–that’s the main goal. For not playing competitively for almost a year now, I think they’re in good shape. We just always want to be two steps ahead.”

East Juniata 6, Susquenita 0

Susquehanna 0 0–0

East Juniata 2 4–6

Goals: EJ–Kierstyn Fogle 4, Leah Sankey, Amara Brubaker. Shots: EJ 13-4. Corners: EJ 7-2. Saves: EJ–Grace Hibbs 4, S–4.

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