The season came to an end rather quickly for the State College girls’ soccer team Tuesday night.
Led by Sabrina Bryan’s four goals, Canon-McMillan poured on the offense in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium, bouncing the Lady Little Lions 7-0.
“Before the first goal was scored, I thought it was going to be a really close match,” State College coach Kevin Morooney said. “They have a good finisher, just like we do (in Haley Crawford), and she did. She was able to finish, and we weren’t able to create the kind of opportunities we talked about when we were preparing for the match.”
Abby Gillespie, Allie Thomas and Lauren Hess added the other goals for the Lady Macs (17-4-1), the runner-up from District 7.
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Crawford took a handful of shots, and had one skim off the crossbar in the second half, but most were from a decent distance from the net.
“(Crawford) is very dangerous,” Canon-McMillan coach David Derrico said. “I changed the personnel around. I put a different player on our right side, knowing she’s a left-footer. I put a different player on that side just to try and mitigate her attacking our defense a little bit. She started coming into our center, and our center-backs are strong, our center midfielder and holding midfielder are strong.”
While Crawford may have rushed some of her attempts because she was being so tightly marked, overall the Little Lions had trouble sustaining possessions and advancing the ball deep to its offensive end.
“It wasn’t just Haley,” Morooney said. “We were forcing things all over the place, and I think we could have possessed a little more in transition and created higher quality opportunities, and also relieve some of that pressure.”
State College (12-7-1) was outshot 22-8 as it failed to advance out of the first round of the state tournament for the third straight year.
“The two things that had been going well for us the last few weeks,” Morooney said, “were our patience and pressure on defense and we started to re-find our poise and rhythm in transition. We never really had that. We didn’t sustain that.”
A long Lady Mac service from midfield led Bryan behind the Lady Little Lion defense. State College keeper Caitlin Fasnacht raced ahead trying to get to the ball first, but Bryan beat her and tapped the ball past her into the open net 13:18 into the game.
The Lady Macs then blew the game open with three goals in the final 13 minutes of the first half.
First, a corner kick from Ashlyn Whipple found Gillespie’s head near the far post for a 2-0 lead. Bryan then ripped off a shot from about 20 yards away that found the top corner of the net, and less than two minutes later a rebound bounced to the feet of Thomas about 10 yards away, with her shot bouncing off Fasnacht into the net.
“The first half score was really deceiving,” Morooney said. “We had really discrete breakdowns. I thought they were about a goal better than us in the first half, and to be down 4-0 was just a very tall mountain to climb.”
Just 3:50 into the second half, another Lady Mac corner kick, this one from Allison Oddi, found Hess at the near post for a tap-in and a 5-0 lead.
By that point the Lady Little Lions made some changes on the field to try to spur the offense, but it didn’t do enough.
“I’d rather lose 7-0 and try to close the gap than otherwise,” Morooney said.
Bryan completed the hat trick with 13:43 left, racing up the middle and taking a feed from Aideen O’Donoghue on the sideline and booting the ball past Fasnacht. The sophomore finished her big scoring night in a scramble in front of the net by booting in a rebound with 9:18 left.
“She hasn’t had a breakout game, hasn’t had a hat trick for three weeks or more,” Derrico said. “Her confidence was low. So when she got that first one, I told my assistants she was going to score more. I just knew it. She’s that kind of an emotional forward.”