The Hollidaysburg Area High School girls soccer team is in excellent midseason form. But veteran coach Dave Soellner is hoping that the Lady Tigers will really hit their stride late in the season, around the time of the District 6-AAA tournament.
"We've probably been playing our best soccer of the season in the last week and a half,'' Soellner said after watching his Hollidaysburg squad dispatch Altoona, 5-1 Monday evening on the Altoona Area High School intramural field. "The players have worked very hard in the offseason, and very hard during the season, and we're right where we want to be. We want to continue to move forward.''
Hollidaysburg reached the District 6-AAA playoffs a year ago, but lost in the first round. Improving on that finish is a natural goal this year.
"Every team has to set a goal,'' Soellner said. "We're trying to set a goal, and follow that goal. We're taking one step at a time. The ultimate goal is to win the [district].''
Hollidaysburg improved to 8-2 Monday behind two goals apiece from senior center/forward Michelle Muir and senior forward Mikayla Dongell.
Dongell converted a breakaway chance for the first goal of the game 17:48 into the first half, and Muir scored just over two minutes later, at 20:01, by heading home an assist from junior Madison Aungst.
Hollidaysburg built a 4-1 lead at halftime. Aungst converted Anne Mielnik's assist at 27:27 for Hollidaysburg's third goal.
After Altoona (3-5) got on the board with a goal by Kierra Irwin at 32:30, Muir scored off a breakaway with just 1:36 left in the first half.
"We had several breakaway opportunities and some real nice passing combinations,'' Soellner said.
Muir thought that both teams played well Monday.
"Altoona is our rival, and they did a really good job of pressuring us and challenging our shots,'' Muir said. "And I thought we did a very good job of possessing the ball and working well together as a team tonight.''
Muir, Dongell, center-midfielder Allison Stubbs, and defender Nicole Day are the four seniors on Hollidaysburg's roster, and they provide the Lady Tigers with plenty of leadership.
"All four of our seniors have been playing together forever,'' Muir said. "You couldn't ask for a better group of seniors.''
Dongell completed the game's scoring ten minutes into the second half for Hollidaysburg, netting her second goal of the night on an assist from Day.
"We played against some real good teams early in the year, and pulled through,'' Dongell said. "That helped us to get our momentum going.''
Hollidaysburg also beat Altoona, 5-1 earlier this season. Altoona is a young squad that has just two seniors on its roster.
"Defensively, we had some letdowns tonight,'' Altoona coach James John said. "Those letdowns hurt us, and [Hollidaysburg] capitalized on them. We're trying to work on things like that. It's been a slow process, but it's coming along.''
Game notes: Hollidaysburg junior goalkeeper Peyton Civils made several saves and was commended by both Soeller and Muir for registering another good performance. Civils also helped Hollidaysburg win a tournament at Ligonier Valley this past Saturday. "Peyton Civils had a very nice game Monday and a very good weekend at Ligonier Valley,'' Soellner said ... The junior varsity game was played Monday night after the varsity game. Hollidaysburg's jayvees prevailed, 2-0.
SCORE BY HALVES
Hollidaysburg4 1 - 5
Altoona1 0 - 1
First Half: 1, H-Dongell (Madara), 17:48. 2, H-Muir (Aungst), 20:01. 3, H-Aungst (Mielnik), 27:27. 4, A-irwin (unassisted), 32:30. 5, H-Muir (Benard), 38:24.
Second Half-6, H-Dongell (Day), 10:00.
Records: Hollidaysburg (8-2); Altoona (3-5).