JOHNSTOWN - From the beginning of Thursday night's District 6 Class AA girls soccer semifinal match, it was clear what Bedford's strategy would be.
For the entire first half, Bedford sent only two players forward on attacks, while keeping eight players back on defense protect against the offensive power of Forest Hills.
The plan worked, holding the Lady Rangers to only one goal in the first half.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bisons, they never could get the offense going in the second half and their season ended with a 2-0 loss at Richland High School.
"In the first half, our goal was to get to halftime keeping the game close, and open it up in the second half," said Bedford coach Barrett Schrock. "I thought that way we aren't chasing them the whole 80 minutes. We executed and we played pretty well. It was 1-0 at halftime, and that was the plan, to be within one. The second half, we came out and had a couple of chances, but tonight Forest Hills was the better team."
The plan to be more defensive kept Forest Hills off the scoreboard for most of the first half, but it also kept the ball in the Lady Bison zone for most of the first 40 minutes. Forest Hills took advantage of the ball being in the Bedford zone just over six minutes into the game when Casey Gallaher launched a deep rising shot at the net. Lady Bison goaltender Erin Mueller made a jumping save on the kick to keep the game scoreless.
The Lady Rangers did not get another good opportunity to score until five minutes later, when the Briana Kostan took a feed from Ashley Lucas but put the kick over the crossbar. Other than those two chances, the Bedford defense did a good job of blocking up the passing lanes for the Lady Rangers.
The defensive plan of the Lady Bison worked until the midway point of the half. Gallaher took the ball and got past a Bedford defender in the left corner. She dribbled the ball a couple times along the goal line, then lofted it toward the net.
Instead of putting the ball out in front of the net to a teammate, Gallaher lifted the ball over the outstretched hands of Mueller and into the far side of the net for a 1-0 Forest Hills lead.
Forest Hills had a couple of other opportunities in the half, but could not add to the lead. Kim Boyd sent a kick at the Bedford net late in the half. The ball hit off the head of a Lady Bison defender and changed directions toward the net. Mueller made a key save to keep the Lady Rangers from adding to their lead.
While Mueller and the Bedford defense were constantly tested, the Forest Hills defense and goalie Megan Ross saw little action in the first half. Ross only had to play a couple of long balls, which never posed any threat to the net.
"It took me by surprise," Forest Hills coach Donna Gallaher said of Bedford's defensive strategy. "I looked at my assistant coach Nikki [Lee] and said they have eight people back. They played different the second half. They changed some things to work the ball back out. We got opportunities in the first half, they just plugged it up that every time we tried to get it to our forward or target player there were eight people around her. They didn't give us much space."
In the early play of the second half Forest Hills continued to get opportunities. Mueller made a save off of a header by Boyd from a corner kick with just under two minutes gone in the half. A few minutes later, Mueller had to make a save on the side of the net off of a nice passing play by the Lady Rangers.
Mueller made a key save about 10 minutes into the half off of a corner kick, diving to keep it out of the net. The ball squirted away from Mueller but went over the end line.
At about the midway mark of the second half, Kostan hit Gallaher on a pass, and Gallaher sent a shot at the net. Mueller made a rolling save to keep the score 1-0.
Unfortunately for Mueller and the Lady Bisons, Forest Hills added to the lead a few minutes later. Gallaher sent a corner kick toward the box, and Bedford was called for a handball in the box on the kick. Gallaher sent the penalty kick into the right side of the net to make the lead, 2-0.
Bedford's best opportunity came with just under 11 minutes left. The Lady Bisons had a corner kick. In the scramble to get the ball, a Bedford player was called for an infraction in the box in front of the Forest Hills goal, giving the ball to the Lady Rangers.
The Lady Bisons never came close again. They finished their season with a final record of 14-5-1.
"I thought our season as a whole was excellent," Schrock said. "For us to have 14 wins, that's the best season we've had since I have been coaching. The girls just stepped up this year, and they played real well. Better than I expected."
SCORE BY HALVES
Forest Hills1 1-2
FIRST HALF: 1, FH-Cas. Gallaher (unassisted), 19:33.
SECOND HALF: 2, FH-Cas. Gallaher (unassisted), 62:46.
Records: Bedford (14-5-1); Forest Hills (18-0-1).