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Little Lions advance with shutout win

Short-handed, season ends for Huskies

Sentinel photos by MIKE GOSS
Mifflin County’s Monica Druckenmiller (20) splits two State College forwards in transition during the District 6 Class 3A field hockey championship game at Bald Eagle Area.

WINGATE — For as much as adversity has struck the Mifflin County field hockey team in the past two seasons, it was only fitting that more challenges would arise leading up to the District 6 Class 3A championship game.

The Huskies, who were missing two starters, had to thrust starting goalkeeper Sophie McCurdy into the midfield late in the year while freshman goalie Maddie Norman earned the start in the cage. Norman helped usher the Huskies to victory on Oct. 20 against the Little Lions, but Mifflin County struggled on Monday night.

After an evenly played first quarter, the Little Lions began to generate more opportunities before a goal with 40 seconds left in the opening half opened the door and momentum never left State College’s side on its way to a 4-0 victory over Mifflin County at Bald Eagle Area High School’s Alumni Stadium.

“It was all sorts of things,” Mifflin County coach Ashley Suydam said. “We lost two starters and we had to adjust. We had low numbers to start, and we had to pull our starting goalie and put her out on the field. Our goalie was a freshman, and she did great — she’s just super inexperienced. We’ve had a lot of things to try to overcome this season and they played hard. I’m really proud of how hard they played.”

The Huskies (8-10-1) gave up the first goal of the night to the Little Lions on a nice feed from the end line by Rachel Foster that gave Quinn Colburn the ball on the left side in open space. Colburn rocketed a shot that snuck past Norman for the opening tally just before the half.

The goal seemed to flip momentum toward the Little Lions (12-5-1), whose second goal from McKenna Burke found the back of the cage inside the far post to put the Huskies in a big hole, after the teams split a pair of one-goal overtime contests already this season.

“It’s really disappointing, but it is the reality with sports,” Suydam said of Monday’s result. “You just never truly know.”

State College scored two more goals in the fourth quarter, including one on a corner on a beautiful loft shot from Phebe Herlocher off the insert from Leah Moyer. Herlocher was able to get under the ball enough for it to float over the Husky defense and into the back of the cage over Norman with 12:07 left in the game.

A final goal by Moyer on a corner off an assist by Sydney O’Donnell with 3:52 left was the final nail in the coffin for Mifflin County, as the Little Lions effectively milked the clock by retaining possession and generating corners in the fourth quarter.

State College held an 8-4 advantage in corners. The Huskies struggled to generate corners as they had just two corners before earning a pair in the final minute of the game.

The Huskies’ best opportunity to score came with 5:45 left in the third quarter, shortly after the Little Lions’ second goal as Lyza Underhill won possession on the sideline and sent a pass to the middle of the field to a charging Hailee Sheetz. Sheetz found space at the top of the arc and riffled a shot that went right of the cage.

Sheetz later helped the Huskies earn a corner when she was fouled inside the arc with 13:28 left to play, but her shot on the ensuing corner went wide.

In goal, Norman made seven saves for Mifflin County.

While the loss will sting the Huskies for a while, with just three seniors departing in Morgan Kaniecki, Madi Rowe and Maddie McCarter, Mifflin County gained valuable experience playing in a championship setting.

The Huskies also fought through adversity before the 2021 season ever truly got started, as a pair of quarantines this season kept the team out for a lengthy period after missing the District 6 tournament a season ago due to COVID-19 precautions.

“Last year we didn’t even get a chance to play in this game because we had to quarantine at the end of the season, so we missed out on districts,” Suydam said. “I think we had two girls on the field that had played in a district game before and that makes a difference. We had low numbers to start with and that makes it worse when you lose starters.

“Despite that, this gives them experience for next year,” Suydam added. “We lose three seniors and most of our starters are returning. They got to gain experience and hopefully we can get healthy. Next season we are coming for (State College).”

Notes: State College would have advanced into the District 3 bracket, where the two teams compete for a state playoff spot, regardless of the outcome of this game, as the Lions are ranked within the top 12 in that district. Had Mifflin County won, it would have received the 12th and final District 3 berth and both teams would have had a shot at the PIAA tournament.

Mifflin County was seeking its first berth into the PIAA Class 3A bracket since the 2015 season.

State College 4, Mifflin County 0

SC 0 1 1 2 — 4

MC 0 0 0 0 — 0

Goals: Quinn Colburn, McKenna Burke, Phebe Herlocher, Leah Moyer (SC). Assists: Rachel Foster, Olivia Miller, Leah Moyer, Sydney O’Donnell (SC). Shots: 11-3, SC. Corners: 8-4, SC. Saves: Molly Schreiner 1 (SC); Maddie Norman 7 (MC).

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