Bedford advances on Thomas’ hat trick

For the Mirror

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Halfway through the second half of the District 6 2A girls soccer semifinal game, Bedford’s Amber Thomas weaved the ball around Richland defenders in front of the goal with ease.

“I felt them going real hard this way, so I kept cutting back. They just kept falling for it,” Thomas said with a laugh.

Thomas finished off her fancy footwork by booting the ball past overworked Richland goalkeeper Harmony Eckroth.

The score was the second of her three second-half goals and punctuated a dominant night for the top-seeded Lady Bisons. Bedford had a huge advantage in time of possession and scored four times in the second half to pound the fourth-seeded Lady Rams, 5-0, on Monday night at Hollidaysburg’s Tigers Stadium.

“I think that was some of the best soccer we’ve played,” Bedford coach Jeff Thomas said. “I was hoping that was coming. In the last game, the referees were on the field and really messed up our possession game. Today, we were able to possess the ball and make our switches from side to side.”

“I thought we all played pretty well,” Amber Thomas said. ” We were all looking to pass and possess the ball, and we finally capitalized on that.”

Bedford hiked its record to 20-0 and advanced to the championship game against sixth-seeded Juniata, a 3-2 upset winner over second-seeded Central. The title game will be played Thursday at Mansion Park at a time to be announced. Richland, which lost three times to Bedford this season, including twice by shutout, finished 13-6-1.

While Bedford didn’t score until there was 4:25 left in the first half, the Lady Bisons spent most of the half on the Richland end passing or stealing the ball and peppering Eckroth with shots on goal. Eckroth kept her team in it in the opening half by making 10 or her 18 saves.

“I expected a close battle the whole time, and they gave us that,” Amber Thomas said, “but we got into our groove and found the holes. Goals will come if we keep possessing and passing it around.”

The Lady Bisons came close to scoring twice before finally scoring. Senior Amelia Beland took a shot in front of the net, and the ball sailed over the crossbar at the 7:20 mark. Two minutes later, Grimes hit the sidebar.

Fifty-five seconds later, they finally got on the board when Grimes headed a corner kick from Allison Shuke past the Richland goalkeeper.

“That’s our gameplan,” Jeff Thomas said, “to be patient, play our game and they’ll come.”

Bedford goalkeeper Katie Querry, meanwhile made one save in the first half and four stops in the game.

The second-half barrage started less than 7 minutes into it when junior Allison Pittman scored off an assist by Beland.

Thomas scored the first of her three straight goals at the 21:48 mark by booting a free kick to the left side of a diving Eckroth.

“I noticed the wall was kind of spaced out and the keeper was really near-post,” she said, “so I just drove it past her left side.”

Then, at the 19:15 mark, Thomas put on her textbook display of ball-handling before burying the ball in the back of the net.

“I’ve seen it before,” Coach Thomas said. “That’s all the ball skills that we’ve done since they were 5 years old.”

She completed her hat trick by scoring again in front of the net with 7:48 remaining in the game.

Thomas and the rest of the Lady Bisons will get ready for Thursday’s District 6 title game.

“We’re really looking forward to (the title game),” she said. “We know they take the top two to states, and we’re excited about that.”

SCORE BY HALVES

Richland    0  0 — 0

Bedford      1  4 — 5

First half: B–Grimes (Shuke), 4:25.

Second half: B–Pittman (Beland), 33:02; Thomas (free kick), 21:48; Thomas (unassisted), 19:15; Thomas (unassisted), 7:48.

Records: Richland (13-6-1); Bedford (20-0).

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