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Lady Lions fall short in bid to keep season alive

D6-10 4A girls soccer

HOLLIDAYSBURG — When the Altoona and McDowell girls soccer teams met on the pitch Saturday morning at Hollidaysburg’s Tiger Stadium, the match had the makings of one that would be won on whichever team was able to execute at just the right time.

Unfortunately, for the Lady Lions, that break didn’t go in their favor.

With the match stuck in a scoreless tie, the Lady Trojans were able to take advantage of a corner kick opportunity as Hannah Shepard headed the ball into the back of the net to eventually end Altoona’s record-breaking season with a 1-0 win in the District 6-10 Class 4A subregional.

“We talk about it all the time throughout the club season with the girls, and then throughout high school,” Altoona coach Derek Winterburn said. “It’s just the bigger games, the bigger moments, it’s always coming off a set piece. Whether it’s a corner or it’s a free kick. It’s the little things.”

The corner immediately followed another corner by McDowell that Altoona goalkeeper Julia Lane allowed Altoona to survive.

“That’s something that we talked about at halftime. Any set piece — a corner, a free kick — we had to take advantage of it because it was very hard to break down their (Altoona) defense,” McDowell coach Jay Perkins said. “We knew that it had to be something like that.”

McDowell’s Kylee Cross used the short left corner and played the ball to Grace Emanuel who took a few dribbles and fired a shot just inside the 18.

Lane got enough of the shot to allow the ball to deflect off her fingers and hit the crossbar. The ball eventually landed just outside the right post where Lane was able to scramble and knock it out of bounds — setting up the game-winning corner kick — before a charging Lady Trojan attacker was able to get a foot on it.

With the kick coming from the right corner, Cross sent the ball into the 10-yard area where Shepard was waiting unmarked. The freshman got her head on the ball and directed it into the back of the net before Lane had a chance to react to the redirection.

“This is the biggie — we always look forward to this game all season long,” Perkins said. “During the regular season, our competition isn’t always the strongest, so we always know that when we come down here, it’s going to be a great game.”

McDowell controlled possession for most of the contest as Altoona found rare scoring chances.

“That’s one thing that we focus on a lot in practice a lot is just keeping the ball in their (opponents) end. Trying to keep possesion as much as possible and keeping that pressure on,” Perkins said. “We’ve been pretty successful at it this year.”

Two of the shots the Lady Lions were able to get off came in the opening half, and just the one was on goal.

Altoona’s prime chances came in the 12th minute of the first half when Maura Kiser ripped a shot that McDowell keeper Kari May directed wide of the back side of the goal.

Less than a minute later, Altoona’s Morgan Sarver found a shooting lane and got off a shot that would have found that back of the net if not for the Lady Trojans’ Marissa Momeyer dropping back just in time to clear the ball out of danger for her team.

“We had some clean looks in the first half and we couldn’t convert,” Winterburn said. “We’re usually pretty good. … We just didn’t get that one today.”

The Lady Lions had just one true opportunity in the final 40 minutes, and it came in the 38th minute as Cassie Kyle sent a ball through to Darrian Berkheimer, but a bad touch caused the ball to be easily picked up by May.

McDowell nearly had a second goal in the second minute of the second half as Emanuel was able to turn and dribble the end line before finding Samantha Faulkner out in front of the goal. However, Lane was able to dive and knock the ball away one-handed.

McDowell improved to 19-1 and will host Norwin, the second seed out of District 7, on Tuesday.

“I can’t say enough about Altoona — they were fantastic,” Perkins said.

Meanwhile, Altoona ended its historic season at 14-4-1.

“The 14 wins were a school record,” Winterburn said. “We didn’t lose a game at home, which was a school record. This was the first year we didn’t lose to Hollidaysburg, which is cool. This is the first year we’ve won a district final, which is cool. It’s all good stuff, and I’m just proud of the work that they’ve put in.”

Winterburn stressed the importance of continuing to have his team blaze the trail for themselves and future Lady Lion players.

“It was always losing to State College in the district final (that Altoona couldn’t accomplish). We got over that hump,” Winterburn said. “Now, you’ve got a taste for what it’s like to get started with a play-in game in the state tournament. Now, next year, is that the step? Do we take that one? It’s a constant challenge.”

SCORE BY HALVES

McDowell 0 1 — 1

Altoona 0 0 — 0

SCORING SUMMARY

First Half: none.

Second Half: M–Shepard (Cross), 10:45.

Goalies: McDowell–May: 2 saves, 2 shots on goal; Altoona–Lane: 8 saves, 9 shots on goal.

Shots: McDowell 14; Altoona 4

Corner kicks: McDowell 7; Altoona 3.

Records: McDowell (19-1); Altoona (14-4-1).

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