State too much for Altoona

WINGATE — Nothing worked out for the Altoona girls soccer team during its 2-0 loss to State College in the District 6 Class 4A championship game on Tuesday night at Bald Eagle Area High School.

The Mountain Lions turned defensive and fought the nine-time D6 champs through a perilous — but scoreless — first half that was almost completely controlled by the Little Lions.

After an even grittier 20 minutes following the break, Altoona began loosening up a defender, hoping for some kind of break, some kind of State College mistake, that unfortunately never came.

Instead, the break came on the other end. State College sophomore forward MaKenzie Graham found herself alone just outside the left-high corner of the box in the 63rd minute, and she screamed a shot just inside the left post for a 1-0 SC lead.

Down with time running short, the Lady Lions gamely mounted two rushes that both produced shots on goal, but both were handled by SC keeper Ali Wicks.

Altoona’s hopes came to an end with less than 2 minutes to play when Graham nailed a penalty shot that sewed up the win, and the D6 title, for State College.

“We tried,” Altoona coach Derek Winterburn said. “Their back line was playing really, really high, so we were just trying to counteract it by playing one of our forwards high, looking for a split or a ball over the top.

“Just never really got there. We talked about it all week, that if it came down to the last 10 minutes, we were going to take one out of the back. I mean, it was working, but when you gamble like that, you see what happens. We didn’t have enough (players) back.”

State College had an advantage in almost every category, especially in the first half. Yet Altoona didn’t bend, even in the face of nine consecutive first-half shots by the Little Lions.

Still, the Lady Lions mounted the final attack of the half with a two-on-two break with just 2 minutes left. Sierra Bryan’s shot, however, went wide, and the half ended with no damage.

“Altoona did a great job, and they kept it close,” State College coach Kevin Morooney said. “They were playing eight in the box, and we talked about swinging the ball a little bit more and getting them to come out. Then penetrating again.”

The strategy worked, but it took 63 minutes of probing the Altoona defense for that to happen.

Neither team threatened through the first 20 minutes of the second half, but then State center Kelly Mejia tried to drive into the center of the defense, and the ball was knocked over to Graham. The sophomore, who is also the high scorer on the Little Lion team, wasted no time putting her side ahead.

Altoona countered with two shots, by Cierra Rhodes and Paris Haugh, but neither got past Wicks.

Three minutes after Haugh’s try, Mejia broke away into the box, but she was fouled, and the Little Lions were awarded a penalty kick.

Mejia was shaken up on the play and had to leave, so Graham did the honors with a shot low and inside the right pole.

“These players worked hard,” Winterburn said, “and I’m really proud of them. They worked hard from the beginning of the year all throughout until the end. Toward the end of the year, they started to get in synch to where we really didn’t have to worry about the back line.

“And they played really well tonight. I mean, to hold State College for over 60 minutes without a goal is pretty impressive.

“I can’t really complain about anything. All 11 played hard, and there was never a letdown.”

Game notes: Altoona was out-shot, 15-7, and 5-1 from the corner. … Wicks finished with three saves on three shots while the Lady Lions’ Alicia Carper stopped five of seven shots.

SCORE BY HALVES

Altoona    0 0 — 0

State College    0 2 — 2

SCORING

Second half: SC–Graham, 63:00. SC–Graham (penalty kick), 79:00.

Keeper saves: Carper, A, 5-of-7. Wicks, SC, 3-of-3.

Records: Altoona (8-9-2), State College (11-8)

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