Small ponds started to form in the corners of Memorial Field, while a select few with nerve and umbrellas watched water accumulate from their gray, soaked bleachers.
The conditions, damp and chilly for late May, were dreary to say the least. Rain poured throughout the first half — and so did Lady Little Lion goals.
State College girls’ lacrosse ousted Erie McDowell 9-5 on Thursday night in a PIAA subregional thanks to seven first-half goals. The Lady Little Lions face the No. 2 seed out of District 7 on Tuesday in the PIAA playoffs.
“We told them to come out fired up and play your heart out,” State College head coach Megan Wagner said. “And that’s really what they did. Those seven goals were what we were aiming for.”
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Junior attacker Caroline Paterno led the way for the Lady Little Lions with four goals. Senior midfielder Brielle Curtis added two goals, while Carissa Tambroni, Sophie Brandimarte and Elaina Ohlson each put one past the goalie.
Tambroni tallied five ground balls, and goalie Kate Thomas logged five saves.
But for most of the first half, Thomas and the defenders in front of her stood idly by as their offensive teammates worked the McDowell defense. Save for a couple breakaway chances by the Lady Trojans, State College commanded possession — and that led to goals from the get-go.
Paterno netted the first goal 38 seconds after the opening faceoff with a free-position shot from in close. It was the first of three first-half goals for Paterno.
“She’s consistently performed,” State College assistant coach Whitaker Willocks said. “It’s a team unit, and we’re that deep. It allows other players to shine. Caroline played great.”
Considering the PIAA stage, Paterno was awe-struck but said this game, out of all them in her career, sticks out.
“It’s all or nothing in these games,” the junior said. “We were all finding each other, and I give a lot of credit to my teammates.”
Paterno’s teammates built off her early form. Eight minutes after State College’s opening goal was scored, the Lady Little Lions went up 2-1 with Ohlson’s goal.
With 12 minutes until halftime, Curtis slotted her first home. Then a few minutes later, Paterno and Brandimarte both scored in a 21-second span. Tambroni notched a goal with a minute to go, and Paterno finished the half off, slinging one past the goalie with eight seconds remaining.
State College led 7-2 at the break.
“It can be tough being the team up that much,” sophomore Sally Stahl said. “But we were ready for it.”
The Lady Little Lions kept their cool despite three McDowell second-half goals.
And up 9-5 with a little less than five minutes left in regulation, State College did what so many older siblings do to their younger counterparts — play keep-away.
Whipping it from the point to the flanks, then behind the net and back around, the Lady Little Lions didn’t falter. They kept possession until there was 18 seconds to go — when McDowell had no chance.
“If the ball’s in our sticks, they can’t score,” Willocks said. “Even with that much time on the clock, we had the confidence in our players. We knew they control the ball, stay composed, stay poised with it. And we were able to walk away with a win because of it.”
There were plenty of reasons why the Lady Little Lions prevailed.
State College fended off weather-delay rust and thwarted McDowell’s best effort. It scored with relative ease in the first half and were disciplined enough in the final 25 minutes not to let up.
“We’re the type of team that once we get rolling, we keep on going,” Paterno said.
And the Lady Little Lions hope that’s the case on Tuesday.
Stahl to play in national tourney
Sally Stahl, a second-team Mid Penn Conference All-Star, was selected to join some of the country’s best at the U.S. Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament this weekend.
The State College sophomore will play for the central Pennsylvania team, competing against top teams from the region. The tournament is held on Saturday and Sunday at Yale University’s campus in New Haven, Conn.
Stahl took part in the tournament as a freshman last year, as well, but said she it was “nerve-wracking” as a younger player. This time around, the attacking midfielder exuded confidence.
“I’m definitely excited,” said Stahl, who has tallied 45 points for the Lady Little Lions this season. “I want to show them who I am as a player and showcase my skills to all those coaches.”