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Strong bond helping Lady Lions

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Altoona’s Morgan Sarver, who had two goals and an assist, races ahead of Hollidaysburg’s Paige Woods on a break Monday night.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Altoona Area High School girls soccer team is unbeaten, with one tie, in its first six games this year, and one of the key components involved in the Lady Lions’ success is a familial type of bond that exists between the players.

“Every game that we win is really special,” said sophomore target forward Morgan Sarver, who scored two goals and an assist as Altoona ran its season record to 5-0-1 with a 4-0 victory over Hollidaysburg Monday night at Tiger Stadium. “This team is like a family. We’re all really close.”

A hard-working family, agreed Altoona coach Derek Winterburn.

“There is no in-fighting, everybody has each other’s backs, and each player works hard for the player next to them,” Winterburn said. “It’s a mindset — they’re all committed to working hard and getting better, every day, game-by-game.”

Altoona played disciplined, controlled soccer in building a 3-0 halftime lead.

Sarver got the Lady Lions rolling 13:11 into the game by blasting a high shot from 20 yards away into the top of the cage behind Hollidaysburg senior goalkeeper Meghan Cutshall to open the scoring.

“I just saw their keeper was pulled out, and I thought I’d take one with my left foot, and it worked,” Sarver said.

As things turned out, Sarver’s opening goal was all the scoring that Altoona would need.

“I think that Morgan’s first goal kind of set the tone,” Winterburn said. “It gave us some breathing room early on.”

Sarver’s second goal provided more breathing room less than eight minutes later. Sarver took a feed from sophomore teammate Lauren Kiser and booted a shot along the turf into the lower right corner of the cage at the 21:02 mark to stake Altoona to a 2-0 lead.

“I got a really nice ball played through the seam, and I just ran to it and put it in the corner,” Sarver said.

Sarver picked up an assist on Altoona’s third goal, by junior midfielder Darrian Berkheimer with 2:20 left in the first half, that gave Altoona its 3-0 halftime lead.

Berkheimer weaved in from the deep left wing and scored to put Altoona firmly in control.

On a night when Altoona played good positional soccer, a three-goal lead was like Mount Everest.

“We played possession soccer tonight,” Winterburn said. “That’s been our main focus.”

Hollidaysburg coach Dave Soellner, whose team dropped to 3-3, felt that Altoona controlled the field.

“They played very well tonight,” Soellner said. “They were spreading the field, and we were trying to compact the middle of the field and win the middle of the field. We weren’t getting to the outside fast enough to stop them.”

Altoona wrapped up the scoring with the only goal of the second half, when sophomore forward Rebecca Dull scored from a scramble in front of the Hollidaysburg cage at the 20:20 mark to set the 4-0 final.

Altoona junior goalkeeper Julia Lane had eight saves in a shutout effort, while Cutshall stopped seven shots for Hollidaysburg.

Winterburn has liked everything that he has seen of his Altoona team so far this season.

“These girls are incredible,” Winterburn said. “They show up, and play hard. As a coach, there is nothing more that you can ask of them.”

Game notes: Hollidaysburg won the junior varsity game, 2-1, behind two goals by freshman Abby Bell … Both Altoona and Holllidaysburg will play DuBois next. Altoona hosts DuBois Thursday night, while Hollidaysburg is off for a week until hosting DuBois next Tuesday night.

SCORE BY HALVES

Altoona 3 1 — 4

Hollidaysburg 0 0 — 0

First half: 1, A–Sarver (Aveni), 13:11. 2, A–Sarver (Kiser), 21:02. 3, A–Berkheimer (Sarver), 37:40.

Second half: 4, A–Dull (unassisted), 20:20.

Shots on goal: Altoona 11, Hollidaysburg 8.

Records: Altoona (5-0-1); Hollidaysburg (3-3).

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