The State College soccer team had just played a scoreless first half, but the girls were hardly concerned.
Head coach Kevin Morooney liked what he saw.
“I did come out pretty early in what we talked about at halftime and said, ‘I really don’t have a whole lot to say to you,’” Morooney said. “There were a couple tweaks we might want to make tactically ... otherwise it was just, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’”
Just over three minutes into the second half, Megan Reid cashed in and the Lady Little lions could breathe a little easier, and the team went on to dominate the second half and lock up a fifth consecutive District 6 Class AAA championship.
Lauren Anderson added a late goal and Sarah Hartman made the lead stand up at the other end with three saves in a 2-0 victory over Hollidaysburg on Thursday night at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium.
“This is what we’ve been working for,” Reid said. “We knew if we kept working we could put one in.”
State College now heads to a PIAA play-in game next Thursday at a site to be determined to face DuBois, Erie Strong Vincent or McDowell. A win there would put the Lady Little Lions (14-5-1), who have won nine of their last 10 games, into the PIAA tournament for the 12th time.
The run of five straight titles dates back to when every member of this current team was in junior high or elementary school.
“I made sure they knew that,” Morooney said. “There’s no connection to the (first one). They’re all long gone.”
Still, they all maintained a focus on extending their tradition.
“It’s nice to establish a goal, work hard to achieve it and actually achieve it,” Morooney said. “Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t but tonight we did.”
The Lady Little Lions had held possession for most of the first half, with a 13-3 advantage in shots, but there were only a handful of high-quality chances. Reid had ripped a shot barely over the crossbar early in the game and Victoria Crawford had chipped a shot barely wide right with just over 10 minutes left.
“I thought the first half could have gone either way — we had their opportunities, they had their opportunities,” Hollidaysburg coach Dave Soellner said. “It seemed like all the breaks went their way tonight. We couldn’t catch one.”
Reid broke through three minutes into the second half, taking a feed from Crawford about 10 yards away from the goal and burying it in the net.
“Victoria Crawford made that happen,” Reid said. “She played it up and then dropped it back to me.”
That broke the ice and the ball was almost constantly at that end of the field the rest of the night.
State College finished with a 32-5 advantage in shots. Hollidaysburg keeper Peyton Civils made seven saves while under that intense pressure.
“I’m sure it broke (us) a lot,” Soellner said. “When a team scores on you first, you’ve got to battle back. Our challenge this year, we wanted to score first and have the other team work hard. This time we had to fight back.”
Anderson finished the scoring, booting the ball top-shelf off a cross from Haley Crawford with just under six minutes left.
While they were the only two goals, there could have been so many more such a large disparity in shots and two of them banging off the goal frame.
“Sometimes the texture of a game can change so much after a single goal or a single frame hit in a tight match like that,” Morooney said. “But these girls are like, we’re going to play as long as we have to at this pace at this level of intensity. That was arguably my favorite part.”