Hollidaysburg’s Christian Kendziora couldn’t find the back of the net this season.
Not in games. Not even in practice.
Every shot seemed to sail high for the senior midfielder. Every day, his teammates and coaches peppered him with jokes.
“When are you going to score?” they’d ask. “Christian will never score,” they’d say.
Kendziora finally scored his first goal of the season Wednesday night, breaking a scoreless tie 57 seconds into the second half to spark the third-seeded Golden Tigers in a 3-0 win over top-seeded Bellefonte in the District 6 Class AAA boys’ soccer championship game at Altoona’s Mansion Park.
“We bust on him all the time,” Hollidaysburg coach Craig Shale said. “He’s like, ‘I’ll get it when we need it.’ That was the perfect time to get your first goal of the season.”
Bellefonte coach Scott Martz felt Kendziora’s goal changed the game. After the Mountain League champion Red Raiders (13-5-2) played with aggression and battled Hollidaysburg in the scoreless first half, they couldn’t keep pace in the second half. Hollidaysburg controlled play throughout the final 40 minutes, limiting Bellefonte offensively and keeping pressure on the Red Raiders defense.
Kyle Whitaker and Conor Pielmeier each added goals for Hollidaysburg in the win.
Kendziora’s goal came on a high shot.
Only this time, it was on target.
With his team trailing 1-0, Martz felt the game change.
“As soon as they hit that first goal — we didn’t step to the ball and they hit that first shot and I think it just kind of from how well we played in the first half, I think it just took the wind out of our sails,” Martz said. “And then they got more aggressive. They got aggressive on us up front.”
Shale said his team panicked in the first half, with everything going “100 miles per hour” on the field.
But the first goal opened things up for Hollidaysburg offensively. The Golden Tigers maintained possession and found gaps for scoring chances.
A pair of Bellefonte breakdowns led to the final two goals.
Whitaker finished on a breakaway, racing down the field with only Bellefonte goalkeeper Josh Gaus in his way.
Gaus came out of the net in an attempt to stop the goalscoring opportunity. Whitaker maintained speed and got the shot off, running past Gaus with his shot on its way to the net.
He threw both arms in the air before the ball found the back left corner to give Hollidaysburg a 2-0 lead with 27:21 left.
“It was just a nice, cool finish,” Shale said.
Less than nine minutes later, Pielmeier scored on a perfect throw-in pass before the Bellefonte defense could get set.
“That’s what the guys even said coming out, it was a breakdown,” Martz said. “... The ball came in, we didn’t step to the ball, we just kind of let them go right through on the second and third goal.”
Bellefonte’s defense couldn’t contain Hollidaysburg’s relentless attack.
The Red Raiders offense didn’t help to relieve the pressure.
“We could not get any offense flowing tonight,” Martz said.
Going into the night, Martz thought his team would win the title if it could strike first.
Instead, Kendziora recorded the first goal of the game and his first goal of the season as Hollidaysburg captured the championship, clinched a PIAA berth and ended Bellefonte’s season.
“It doesn’t take away from the season,” Martz said. “These guys had a great year.”