The lead for the Bellefonte girls’ soccer team had just been cut in half, and it could have been time to get nervous.
But a response just over a minute later instead all but locked up a win.
Brietta Rutecki’s goal put the Lady Red Raiders back up by two scores, and they went on to a 4-1 victory over Central on Tuesday night at Rogers Stadium in the District 6 Class AA quarterfinals.
“It feel pretty great,” said junior Madisen Paige, who had a goal and two assists. “We’re excited.”
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Taylor Lair and Jessica Book also scored for the Lady Red Raiders (13-4-2).
“I thought we played simple soccer tonight,” coach Stacey Miller said. “We kept the ball at our feet, and that helped us get the ball in the attacking third and put pressure on their goalkeeper.”
Olivia Smith had the goal for the Scarlet Dragons (12-6-1), who were playing in their first district playoff game.
Bellefonte will play again in the semifinals next Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. They will battle either Forest Hills or top-seeded Juniata, who meet in another quarterfinal Thursday at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium.
Lair had an easy goal for the first half’s lone score, tapping the ball into an empty net from about a yard away. Paige had taken the initial shot from the opposite post after a cross from Mara Dreibelbis, with keeper Maddie Bartek challenging Paige and the ball bouncing to an open Lair.
Just over eight minutes into the second half, Paige had another corner kick with the ball bouncing out of the penalty box to Book about 25 yards away. The junior took a good rip at the ball, hitting the crossbar and it bounced straight down and just over the line.
A flurry of scoring came in the span of less than four minutes midway through the second half. First, Smith put the Dragons on the board with a shot from near the corner of the penalty box. Just 1:04 later, in a mass of bodies scrambling for the ball in front of the Central net, Rutecki tapped it in from a couple yards away.
“We knew we had to push harder once we saw they could score against us,” Paige said. “We did and we got what we deserved.”
It was Rutecki’s goal that broke the Dragons’ backs. For a minute they thought they had a chance to surprise the Lady Raiders.
“You could see they kind of got down on themselves and thought it was done,” Dragons coach Brian Campbell said of the response goal. “They’re a young team. It’s the experience of being here and the belief in themselves will pay off in the future.”
Miller said she didn’t say anything to her team after the Central goal.
“As a team they just said, ‘Let’s get it together,’” Miller said. “They turned around and put it in the back of the net in response. That’s showing they’re a pretty mature team.”
Paige then added her goal 2:29 later with a high shot that bounced off Bartek’s hands and into the net.
Bellefonte outshot Central 25-6.
“They possessed ball really well today,” Campbell said. “They controlled the whole tempo of the game.”
The Lady Raiders were playing their second game in 24 hours, battling rival Bald Eagle Area on Monday, and they were doing their best to fight off the fatigue.
“We were kind of tired,” Paige said, “but it wasn’t that bad.”