First-half dominance lets Windber oust Panthers
WINDBER — Fourth-seeded Northern Bedford came out in the second half trailing and proved to be the aggressor in its District 5 Class 1A semifinal girls soccer semifinal match against top-seeded Windber.
The Lady Panthers controlled play for most of the first 30 minutes of the second half, but, despite scoring an early goal, it was too little, too late. NBC ran out of gas and out of time in a 3-1 loss to the Lady Ramblers at Windber Stadium on Monday night.
“I was very pleased with our play tonight. Some of the girls had never been on turf, so that for us, is a first,” Northern Bedford coach Bridget Bechtel said. “It was great to get that first win in the first round, and now to be in the second round was awesome for the girls to get that experience.”
The loss ends Northern’s season at 13-8, while Windber (17-1-1) advances to face Berlin Brothersvalley, who defeated McConnellsburg 2-1 in their semifinal showdown.
Northern Bedford pushed five and six players into the attack zone after the break and it would pay dividends less than nine minutes in as Sadie McConnell took a through pass from Jostin Ebersole around the 40-yard mark and outraced the trailing defenders before beating Windber goalie Marideth Tokarsky bottom left at the 31:43 mark of the second half to make the score 3-1.
Tokarsky, who saved 11 of 12 shots she faced on the evening, turned away six Lady Panther shots after halftime – most of which came from either McConnell or Ebersole.
The Lady Ramblers game plan was to take away the outstanding play of Northern Bedford’s two biggest goal scorers and the plan worked to perfection — save for the one goal — all night.
“That was our game plan going in — stop those two (McConnell and Ebersole),” Windber coach Paul Buza said. “As soon as they got the ball or the ball was even close to them, we had somebody or two people on them right away.”
As teammates tried to give the senior Ebersole and the junior McConnell through balls or chip the ball into space over the defenders’ heads, the Windber defense surprised NBC with it’s closing speed as they challenged virtually every shot the duo took.
“We knew if we could get through, we could get a goal,” Bechtel said. “So, we just had to keep trying some give-and-go’s. They (Windber) had us covered very well. That flat four (alignment) is hard to break through.”
With about 10 minutes left in the game, the Panthers had given every ounce of effort they had, and there wasn’t much left in the tank as the Lady Ramblers regained control of a contest that they had dominated in the first half to advance to it’s first title game since winning in 2009.
Windber wasted very little time asserting themselves at the outset as they used precise touch passes to create opportunities on the offensive end, and control the midfield so NBC was unable to make any kind of push back the other way.
The Lady Ramblers would get on the scoreboard at the 33:06 mark of the opening half when Makaela Cominsky found herself wideopen from 30 yards. Her shot seemed to catch Northern Bedford keeper Emma Suter off guard as the ball sailed over her head and into the back of the net.
Kacey Costlow would capitalize on her own aggressive play as she got past Mackenzie Gates before dribbling by a falling Kelli Wyles and delivered a shot that got past Suter with 18:01 left.
Just when it looked like Northern Bedford had kept the deficit at two, midfielder Caroline McClain punched in a loose ball with just ticks showing on the clock to send Windber into the half up 3-0.
“Scoring has always been extra. We’ve always played team defense first,” Buza said. “I don’t think we played any different in the first half than we played in the second half. We were defensive-minded obviously with the 3-0 lead, and then they started pushing five and six girls up. There’s not much I can do to answer that.”
In addition to losing Ebersole, the Lady Panthers also say goodbye to Whitley Furry and Peyton Leidy as starters, while it was also the final game for reserves Samantha Kelly, Shawna Williams and Lara Morales.
SCORE BY HALVES
Northern Bedford 0 1 — 1
Windber 3 0 — 3
First Half: W–Cominsky (unassisted), 33:06; W–Costlow (unassisted), 18:01; W–McClain (unassisted), 2.0.
Second Half: NB–McConnell (Ebersole), 31:43
Goalkeepers: Northern Bedford — Suter: 6 saves, 9 shots; Windber — Tokarsky: 11 saves, 12 shots.
Corner kicks: Northern Bedford 2 WIndber 2.
Records: Northern Bedford (13-8); Windber (17-1-1).