Step one of the State College girls’ soccer season was completed with relative ease.
The Lady Little Lions dominated from start to finish and continued their mastery of Altoona, this time in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals.
State College cruised 5-0 Tuesday night at Memorial Field to earn their 14th straight appearance in the district finals.
“We were really excited to get this win,” said Robin Derr, who scored one goal and assisted on two others. “It’s a good start for us.”
The Lady Little Lions will meet Hollidaysburg in the title match Thursday night at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium. The Lady Tigers upended Central Mountain 1-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Sisters Victoria and Haley Crawford scored in the first half and Eve Beury and Lauren Anderson netted second-half goals for the Lady Little Lions (13-5-1).
Sarah Hartman needed to make just one save for the shutout.
She wasn’t very busy because the ball was predominantly at the other end of the field. State College racked up a 26-2 shot advantage.
“Very early in the season we had a team meeting and made a recommittment to team defense,” said State College coach Kevin Morooney, who has been to the district final in 22 of his 23 seasons as head coach. “Since then the girls have done a good job limiting all our opponents to the best of our ability.”
Derr got the scoring started, sending a long service up the middle of the field to Victoria Crawford, who had sneaked behind the Altoona defense and beat keeper Molly Malone, who made nine saves. It was one of numerous opportunities the team had on counterattacks.
“We had played one other match very similar to that in terms of what our opponent was doing with keeping a high line,” said Morooney, whose program has never lost to Altoona. “It takes a while to figure it out, and I’m not sure if we totally figured it out, but such is the nature of those kinds of matches.”
The Mountain Lions (6-12) had been playing their back line high with an offside trap, and it did draw a large number of offside calls on the Lady Little Lions, but the plan could only stop so many breaks.
“We play that offsides trap and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and tonight it didn’t for us,” said Altoona coach James John, who was missing two starters Tuesday. “We had a few mental letdowns and they put a few in on us.”
The second goal from Haley Crawford also came on a break, this time with Sarah McNutt sending the ball through the defense and Crawford taking the ball on the wing and sending it far post past Malone.
After intermission it didn’t take long for State College to cash in again, with Derr firing a shot from the wing that Malone blocked but was unable to control, and Anderson was alone in front of an empty net for the rebound.
Beury then broke through the defense for the fourth goal, with Malone sliding out to challenge the ball and Beury slipping past for an open net. She could have tapped the ball to Derr, who was open beside her, but Beury cleanly tapped the ball in to extend the lead.
“In the second half the game started to get comfortable and we were wearing them down,” Morooney said. “Eventually something broke loose.”
Caitlyn McCarty then set up the final score, swiping the ball on an attempted Altoona clear and sending it to Derr for an easy score.