Second-half goals lift Bedford past Juniata

BEDFORD — Patience would have to be a virtue if usually high-scoring Bedford was going to crack visiting Juniata’s smothering defense.

Paradoxically, it was one of the youngest Lady Bisons — but one who has diligently waited for her opportunity — who made that patience pay off.

Freshman Robyn Casalena came off the bench to break a scoreless tie with just under 12 minutes, and senior Megan Oyler added an insurance tally less than 90 seconds later as Bedford advanced to the semifinals of the District 6 Class 2A girls soccer tournament, 2-0, in a rematch of last year’s district championship match.

“I’m proud of her. She’s definitely worked for it,” Oyler said of Casalena. “She came all summer and worked her butt off for a goal like that.

“It’s definitely a relief (to win). It was hard to get through. We weren’t used to defenses being that hard at pressure. We managed to pass through and connect our passes well.”

It was one of those passes from fellow Lady Bison ninth grader Abigail Donaldson that found Casalena parallel to her just about 5 yards inside the penalty area. Casalena squared and booted it past Lady Indians goalkeeper Mahala Laub into the left-hand corner of the net with 11:41 left in regulation.

“That’s exciting for (Casalena),” Bedford coach Jeff Thomas said. “She got in very little. She got in some of the easier games, but, in some of the bigger games, she didn’t get much playing time. This has got to be huge for her.”

“I don’t really know (how it happened). It was there, and I kind of just kicked it,” Casalena said shyly. “It’s a really good thing to happen to me. I’m really glad for it. I just kind of was there. It was (being in) the right place at the right time, I think.”

The timing couldn’t have been much better. Now 19-0, Bedford came into the playoffs averaging eight goals per match, but the top-seeded Lady Bisons only had 11 shots on goal against Juniata.

“We just had to keep attacking and keep shooting. It was coming,” said Bedford junior Amber Thomas. “We’re always up for the challenge. We just kept possessing around, waiting for our chances to come. It was great (seeing Casalena score).”

It was Thomas’ corner kick that Oyler headed in for the two-goal margin at the 10:15 mark of the second half.

Bedford had to score three second-half goals to come back and edge Juniata for the district title last year. Playing a defense-centric style, Juniata only got nine shots on goal in the rematch. The Lady Indians thought they had a goal early, but Ellie Shepps’ indirect kick went straight into the next untouched in the 12th minute.

Nineteen minutes later, Bedford keeper Lindsay Mowry made a nice stop on Makenzi Beward’s shot from near point-blank range.

The ninth seed, Juniata finished the season 11-10-1.

“Defensively, we played very well tonight. The first half, we were a little bit better with our possession. With about 20 minutes to go, they took over the possession game. They put the pressure on us until they finally stuck one in,” Juniata coach Brian Strawser said. “If we could have gotten settled down, strung a couple of passes together, I think we would have been OK.”

Bedford, though, kept chipping away and finally broke through. The Lady Bisons next are scheduled to host fifth-seeded Everett on Monday.

“We expected this would be a good game,” Jeff Thomas said. “We preach to them that you’ve got to learn to possess the ball. Sometimes the goals don’t come right away. The holes will open up sooner or later.”

SCORE BY HALVES

Juniata 0 0 — 0

Bedford 0 2 — 2

First half: No scoring.

Second half: B–Casalena (A. Donaldson), 11:41; B–Oyler (Thomas), 10:15.

Records: Juniata (11-10-1); Bedford (19-0).

COMMENTS