MILL HALL — It was the bookends of the State College girls’ soccer team’s season.
Peters Township began the fall by beating the Lady Little Lions, then ended their season in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament.
Laurel Carpenter netted both goals as the two-time defending state champions blanked State College 2-0 Tuesday night at Central Mountain’s Don Malinak Stadium.
“It’s really frustrating because we made it this far,” said Haley Crawford, who was denied on a pair of high-quality shots in the first half.
Megan Parker made four saves for the shutout for the Indians (17-4-1). Counterpart Caitlyn Fosnacht stopped three shots.
While Parker played well in the back, it was the defensive effort in front of her that really frustrated the Lady Little Lions (16-6).
“We thought about it, prepared for it, but how do you train for that?” coach Kevin Morooney said. “We only played one game like this all season that reminds me of this, that was the Red Land game, where the team was so organized and so committed to team defense that it was hard for us to crack it.”
Morooney’s defense also played pretty well, but there was one breakdown and one impressive long-distance boot.
Carpenter was on the receiving end of a perfect cross from Mariah Vucich on the first-half score, with Vucich sending the ball from the right side to the middle with Carpenter in an open pocket 15 yards away and sending a low shot just inside the right post.
“That one felt amazing,” Carpenter said of the score at 16:28. “It had been so long since we had scored.”
In fact, it had been over 300 minutes of shutout time for the Indians, who were blanked 1-0 in their District 7 final after advancing on own goals and shootouts earlier in their district action.
“It’s been a while,” Indians coach Pat Vereb said. “That picked up the mood of the team a lot.”
Crawford nearly had the equalizer about 3 1/2 minutes later, putting a pair of shots on Parker. The senior keeper blocked the first attempt, with the ball returning to Crawford’s feet, and Parker diving on the ball just as Crawford booted the second try.
“I went to shoot it top 90, right in the corner,” Crawford said. “But she dove and got it.”
If Crawford had been able to convert on either attempt, the rest of the night might have unfolded differently.
“Our keeper made two point-blank saves and it pretty much changed the game,” Vereb said. “Who knows where that game goes from there if those saves aren’t made. Our goalkeeper’s been standing on her head all year for us. She didn’t have to do that much tonight, but those moments were great for us.”
Carpenter had been a threat with her strong leg all night. She had a first-half free kick from near midfield and sailed the ball over the net and between the football uprights. She had another on target from better than 40 yards away that keeper Fosnacht snared.
Carpenter finally got the long-distance free kick dialed in with 8:37 for the clinching score from 40 yards away, sailing the ball over Fosnacht and under the crossbar.
“I’ve been taking those for the team for as long as I’ve been here,” Carpenter said. “For me to finally get it after taking them all season, it’s a great feeling.”
The score practically killed any State College hopes.
“It’s about the worst time to be scored on,” Morooney said. “That’s a terrible amount of time that you have to adjust. We had already made some changes — they didn’t work out — but that was a back-breaker.”