ALTOONA — Last time the State College girls lacrosse team found itself in a more favorable position and ended up with a less-than-desirable result.
Not this year. Not with this kind of offensive firepower.
After dueling Shady Side Academy to a tie at halftime in their PIAA playoff contest at Altoona High School on Wednesday, the Lady Little Lions blew the Lady Indians out in the second half, rolling to a 21-14 win.
The PIAA win, State College’s first since it blew a four-goal halftime lead in a loss to Pine Richland last year, helped the Lady Little Lions exorcize their playoff demons. It also set up a showdown with Peters Township on Saturday.
Katie Mahon led State College with five goals while Carrie Mahon added four more and two assists. Anna Stevenson and Caroline Friberg each added four goals apiece and Caitlin McGlaughlin netted two. Kendall Loviscky and Darien Miller each scored for State College.
Four of Katie Mahon’s goals came in the second half when the Lady Little Lions buckled down and went on an offensive rampage to break open a 7-7 halftime tie. Learning their lesson from last season, when Pine Richland players adjusted and were able to surmount State College’s lead, State College made small adjustments to offset Shady Side’s defensive tactics.
Shady Side’s strategy of having one defender mirror the State College player cutting to the net became obsolete when the Lady Little Lions sent two cutters at a time on offensive rushes in the second half.
“What that provided for us was opportunities to cut from the weak side,” State College coach Mark Mahon said. “Basically what that did is it just opened up wide-open opportunities for us in terms of having opportunities for getting good looks at the goal.”
When Shady Side rearranged its defense corps into a zone formation, the Lady Little Lions made them pay time and time again.
“They went to a pure zone a couple of times in the second half and we really made them pay for it,” Mark Mahon said.
And although Shady Side standout Felicia Tissonbaum netted nine goals against the Lady Little Lions, State College defenders were able to thwart her scoring tries on timely occasions.
State College’s defense — which went into the game shorthanded — stood tall to prevent the game from getting out of hand. Although the Lady Lions lost recent heavy contributor TaNell Realbird to injury, the rest of the defense stepped up to stymie the Lady Indians’ attack.
Realbird was able to accompany her team to the game and was able to cheer them on from the sideline. She had plenty to cheer for.
Olivia Stahl and Lauren Sonsteby — stalwarts on defense for the Lady Lions all season — anchored efforts in their own end and got help from Renee Olivett who played more minutes in front of goalie Kristin Sonsteby in Realbird’s absence.
Kristin Sonsteby turned away 12 of 26 shots and didn’t have to make saves when her defense helped her out on occasion.
With the Lady Indians up 4-1 early in the first half, the Sonsteby sisters both chipped in to prevent Shady Side from taking a four-goal lead. First, Kristin made a save in close before Lauren knocked a scoring chance away on the next Shady Side offensive sequence.
It was a stark contrast from last season’s PIAA loss when the Lady Little Lions gave up 13 second-half goals to Pine Richland.
“We had a couple of kids that went through that, that played in the first round of the PIAA playoffs for a couple of years and are seniors,” Mark Mahon said. “In terms of the maturity level and calmness going throughout the game and not getting worried about falling behind by two goals then falling apart, the difference between last year and this year — we made adjustments this year.”