DUBOIS — In the first two games of the season, the State College girls’ soccer team had surrendered nine goals, which was hardly standard for their usual expectations.
After two weeks of the season, the Lady Little Lions put some extra focus on defense, and the additional work has paid off.
Victoria Crawford scored the lone goal while the defense posted its fourth straight shutout with a 1-0 win over McDowell in a PIAA Class AAA play-in game Saturday afternoon.
“It was a pretty hard-fought win,” State College coach Kevin Morooney said. “The girls are really thankful they get to extend the season.”
The Lady Little Lions will meet Seneca Valley (19-2), which lost to Peters Township in the District 7 finals, in the PIAA first round Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
State College opened the season with a 5-0 loss to Peters Township, the defending state champions, then fell 4-0 to Cumberland Valley, which won the state spring season title last June, in the second game. Since then, the team has a 0.45 goals-against average, allowed just seven goals total with 13 shutouts, and has been on a run of 11 wins in their last 12 games with the last four by shutout. Since an overtime goal by Red Land in a 1-0 loss in the regular season’s next-to-last game, the Lady Little Lions have posted 320 shutout minutes.
“Since the second week of the season, we’ve done a ‘rebooting’ of our defense,” Morooney said. “Every practice we have had a segment totally dedicated to our defense. Ever since that week we’ve had a totally different defense.”
It was another standard segment of practice that led to the day’s lone goal, courtesy of the Crawford sisters. Haley Crawford ripped a rocket shot from the side that Trojan keeper Crystal Flagg was able to block but could not control the rebound. Victoria Crawford raced in as her younger sister was turning around to take the shot, anticipating the rebound, and poked the ball into the open net.
“We don’t have a practice where we don’t work on that,” Morooney said.“We’ve scored on a couple rebounds this year. It’s nice to see in a big moment they get rewarded for that kind of effort.”
Sarah Hartman made five saves for the shutout. Flagg finished with six saves as the teams were knotted 10-10 in shots.
In addition to starting the season against the Indians, State College also started — and ended in the PIAA quarterfinals— last season against Peters Township. With joining the Mid-Penn Conference, the Lady Little Lions have seen plenty of new opponents, and they are looking forward to the next challenge.
“The whole season has been a whole new collection of experiences,” Morooney said. “The journey has been completely different.”