Lady Lions just miss on upset

By Ken Varner

For the Mirror

WINGATE — Entering Tuesday night’s District 6 Class 4A championship game with rival State College, the Altoona Area High School girls soccer team was looking to pick up the win and, in the process, dethrone last year’s champions.

In what was quite a defensive battle, State College was able to hold on to its title for one more year, by taking a 1-0 victory at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Field.

An early penalty-kick goal by State College’s Alison Houtz just 6:52 into the game was decisive.

Defensively, Altoona was a tough out, as it was able to fight off any attack that State College could muster.

Leading the way for Altoona was freshman goalie Julia Lane. She made nine saves in the game and was able to come out of the net and thwart some of State College’s breakaway attempts.

“I told our players before the game to play hard for 80 minutes and give what they can, and if they need a sub, we will get them a sub. So they battled until the last second,” Altoona coach Derek Winterburn said. “They played as hard as they could for 80 minutes. I couldn’t ask for anything more as a coach. I am just really, really proud of these girls.”

In the opening minutes, Altoona’s Cassie Kyle broke loose and sent the first shot of the ball game just wide of the net.

On its first full drive downfield, State College (17-6) got its first break of the game when Altoona was called for a foul and had to watch as State College set up for a penalty kick.

Houtz lined up the ball and then sent a screamer that just skimmed off the outstretched hands of Lane for the only goal of the game.

“The early goal was such a big boost — it kind of sets you at ease a bit,” State College coach Doug Bates said. “Altoona played great, though. When we met them earlier in the season, we controlled the pace of the game a lot more. We couldn’t get our rhythm going tonight as well. We certainly didn’t sit back after that one goal. We were trying to attack and get more.”

State College out-shot Altoona, 17-7.

After the goal, Altoona’s defense stiffened and came up with numerous big stops. Though Altoona’s offense didn’t get the ball much in the first half, its defense was well up for the challenge.

The score remained 1-0 going into the second half. In the beginning of the second half, Altoona came out aggressively and attacked the ball, pushing it into State territory. However, the State College defense was tough, as it has been all season.

As the time started to wind down in the final minutes of the game, Altoona tried to pick up the pace, moving up the field at a feverish pace, trying to tie the game and send it into an overtime period.

Though in the final seconds there was a frenzy of activity at the front of the State College goal, Altoona could not find the shot that it needed.

Altoona finished the season with a 10-10 record, but the future looks bright for the team, as 11 players on the current roster are underclassmen and will return next season.

SCORE BY HALVES

Altoona 0 0 — 0

State College 1 0 — 1

First half: SC — Houtz (unassisted), 33:08.

Records: State College (17-6), Altoona (10-10).

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