ALTOONA — The State College girls’ soccer team was relentless with the pressure, hammering shot after shot toward the Hollidaysburg net.
The Lady Little Lions had only gotten one goal out of all that pressure, but it seemed to be only a matter of time until they could finally break through.
Rattling off four goals in the span of 12:15 of the second half, State College put on a dominating performance to wrap up its sixth straight District 6 Class AAA title by beating the Lady Tigers 5-1 Thursday night at Mansion Park.
“It was a big one for us,” said senior forward Victoria Crawford, who netted a hat trick. “This one is six in a row, so we’re excited.”
Haley Crawford and Molly Pate netted the other scores for the Lady Little Lions (15-5), who will meet a to-be-determined team from either Districts 9 or 10 in a PIAA play-in game next Thursday night.
As one-sided as the final score turned out to be, it could have been much worse. State College outshot Hollidaysburg 31-2, ringing four shots off the post. Lady Tiger keeper Peyton Civils made 11 saves in the loss.
“This was the first game that we’ve had all season where somebody’s put us under pressure like this,” Hollidaysburg coach Dave Soellner said. “We’ve actually really handled every team that we’ve played this year.”
The shot count was especially striking in the first half — 20-0 — even if the score was just 1-0 at the break.
Despite his team not hitting the net, State College coach Kevin Morooney was not worried.
“I really wasn’t,” Morooney said. “On Tuesday I was wondering, but that was one of the big messages at halftime — there weren’t a whole lot of adjustments to make. The trap we could have fallen into was letting our energy level decay.”
In Tuesday’s semifinal, the Lady Little Lions outshot Central Mountain 17-4 but won just 1-0, and the Lady Wildcats had a number of counterattacks. The Lady Tigers hardly got within 40 yards of the net all night.
“We needed to relax, just calm down,” Victoria Crawford said. “We know we can do it. We just had to calm ourselves down. We had the help from the bench which helped motivate us.”
The dam finally began to break 9:15 into the second half, when Haley Crawford took a long lead pass from midfielder Caitlin McCarthy, raced through the Tigers’ back line and fired a rocket at Civils, who deflected the shot right to Victoria Crawford for the easy rebound.
“That can be the scariest moment of the game,” Victoria Crawford said. “It did help us get in the feel of scoring.”
About five minutes later, Haley Crawford picked off a attempted clearing pass by the Tigers, split through the defense again and booted the ball into the top of the net.
Less than two minutes after that, Megan Reid sent a ball through the Tiger defense to a sprinting Victoria Crawford, and the senior slipped the ball past Civils to complete the hat trick.
Pate then found the net five minutes later, using her speed to shoot through the Tiger defense and beating Civils with a low shot.
“The slope of the curve was definitely in our favor,” Morooney said. “It was really awesome to be in front of the bench and feel that energy.”
“It’s hard to give up one, (but) when you start giving up two and three, the snowball effect starts,” said Soellner, whose team has lost to State College in three of the last four district finals. “The emotions start to rise in the ladies and so forth. It’s hard for them to keep them in check and finish the game strong.”
The shutout was spoiled with 15:14 left — on the Tigers’ first shot of the game — when Emily Brown took a free kick two yards from the top of the penalty area and fired the ball into a diving Caitlyn Fosnacht. The sophomore keeper had the ball blocked, but it trickled over the line.
Victoria Crawford started the scoring 18:18 into the game ripping the ball from about 10 yards away just under the crossbar after some help from Reid.
State College has been rolling lately, outshooting its last three opponents by a combined 74-6, but it was a strong 12-4 season in the Mid Penn Conference, winning 10 of its last 12 games, that has the team eager to jump into the state playoffs.
“I don’t know if this week is going to have a whole lot of impact on their confidence,” Morooney said. “Because of the way this team is constructed, they won 13 out of 14 in the Mid Penn, and that’s the source of their confidence.”