The way the game started, the way the State College girls’ soccer team controlled possession, it could have been worse.
It could have been much, much worse.
The Lady Little Lions scored two early goals and hammered shot after shot toward the net in a dominating 3-0 win over Central Mountain on Monday night at Memorial Field in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals.
Haley Crawford and Kelly Mejia scored the early goals, with the third tally on an own goal, as the Lady Little Lions will play in yet another district championship game.
Six-time defending district champion State College (11-6-1) will meet Hollidaysburg in the title match at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium.
“It’s exciting to get there again,” Crawford said.
With the way the game started, it appeared the Lady Little Lions would be winning by a much larger margin, with a pair of goals 27 seconds apart just over six minutes of game action.
“When we get the first one, we kind of get fired up,” Crawford said. “We keep on going from there.”
With heavy pressure in the Lady Wildcats’ end, Taylor Campbell-Phipps took a solid boot at the ball from just outside the six-yard box that was blocked by a Central Mountain defender. The rebound bounced right to Mejia, and the sophomore didn’t waste time in sending the ball inside the far post.
Just seconds after the restart to action, the Lady Little Lions had the ball back and Sarah McNutt found Crawford racing down the field, setting up the junior to rocket her shot past Lady Wildcat keeper Bryann Hilty.
“I just dribbled around the defender and then shot it,” Crawford said. “Upper 90, the corner. I always aim for the corners.”
Central Mountain coach Ryan Veltri attributed the stretch to “costly errors.”
“We weren’t organized and discipled enough to track back and organize defensively and they capitalize on it,” Veltri said. “In a good situation, a team like that’s going to capitalize every time.”
It was a theme much of the night of taking shots at Hilty.
The Lady Little Lions posted a very lopsided 40-2 shot count, with Hilty making 12 saves, including a couple in rather spectacular fashion.
“She’s a good keeper, absolutely,” State College coach Kevin Morooney said.
The Lady Wildcats not only were not getting shots, but hardly had the ball in any advantageous positions. The ball didn’t even bounce into the 18-yard penalty area much more than a half-dozen times all game.
“I think they were pretty frustrated considering they couldn’t even complete a pass,” Veltri said. “That’s something that we had to do first — complete a pass and connect things prior to that. We had to win the middle third (of the field) and we didn’t do that.”
State College hit a dry spell after those two early scores, even with all those attempts. There were some good saves and a couple of the post or cross bar, but only one more shot made it to the net the rest of the night.
“As much as we talked about eliminating shots on goal for them and free kicks, I didn’t think it was going to be possible because (our) field is smaller,” said Morooney, comparing the game to an earlier meeting on Central Mountain’s much wider home turf. “I really was pleased with our performance, particularly with our structural discipline in the midfield and in the back. It’s something we will have to call on again Wednesday.”
The only other conversion happened 4:34 into the second half, when Megan Fry had the ball deep and just wide of the post, bouncing her shot off a Lady Wildcat defender and into the net.
Caitlin Fasnacht made two saves at the other end of the field for the shutout.