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Lady Lions fall to McDowell

ERIE — From dealing with staying healthy in the COVID-19 era to going long stretches of time without a match because of cancelations, the Altoona girls soccer team has met every challenge head on this fall.

The Mountain Lions just couldn’t overcome one last challenge on Saturday.

Before either team could get into a rhythm, McDowell converted a rebound in front of the Altoona net just 89 seconds into the match and Altoona couldn’t convert several chances the rest of the afternoon in a 1-0 loss to the Trojans in a PIAA Class 4A subregional at Gus Anderson Field.

“I can’t question the energy or the effort because the girls left it all out there and that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” said Altoona coach Derek Winterburn. “McDowell played tough and we saw the formation they were going to play and it was a different look than anything we’ve seen throughout the year.”

McDowell improved to 9-0-1 and moves on to the PIAA quarterfinals against powerhouse North Allegheny, while Altoona ended the season 11-1-0.

McDowell went on the attack right away and Alayna Wicker drove down the right side before firing a shot on net. Altoona standout keeper Julia Lane made the stop, but the rebound went right to Abby Faulhaber, who ripped a shot for a 1-0 lead.

“We said going in we had to score first and had to score early,” said McDowell coach Jason Perkins. “This is a team that builds on momentum. We can usually score early and defend that lead.”

Lane and McDowell keeper Nicole Lichtinger put on a clinic the rest of the match as every shot was stopped by the two goalies.

“Julia was tested three or four teams but our back line is talented and everyone is phenomenal,” Winterburn said. “We have a lot of talent and the girls worked hard all year and played well.”

Sarah Graham was part of that back line that shut down the Trojans with a solid game, while Darrian Berkheimer constantly put pressure on the McDowell defense.

In addition to trying to break through a solid McDowell back line, the Mountain Lions dealt with some big injuries in the second half. Berkheimer came off with an ankle injury midway through the half before Morgan Sarver left the match with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left because of an injury.

“It was tough because those are two big players for us, but we were still able to get a few chances in the end,” Winterburn said. “Morgan is our leading scorer and the rest of the team look to those two as leaders.”

Altoona played 10 regular season matches, picked up a forfeit win over Mifflin County for the District 6 championship and battled after a long trip to Erie in the PIAA playoff this year despite the constant threat of COVID-19 shutting everything down.

“We talked about this week about having so much time off and we didn’t get a chance to play the district final because Mifflin County got COVID and just to appreciate that we were still playing,” Winterburn said. “We didn’t know if we’d even have a season and to get 10 games in then win the district and get to the state playoffs is great. This senior class has accomplished a lot over the years and hats off to them because they are a big part of the change in this program.”

SCORE BY HALVES

Altoona 0 0 – 0

McDowell 1 0 – 1

First half: M–Faulhaber (Wicker), 1:29

Shots on goal: Altoona 5, McDowell 5

Saves: Altoona–Lane 4, McDowell–Lichtinger 5

Records: McDowell (9-0-1), Altoona (11-1-0)

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