For 40 minutes, State College was even with one of the nation’s top girls’ soccer teams.
But a goal 24 seconds into the second half deflated the upset hopes.
Cumberland Valley’s Gabrielle Selkirk struck for the goal right after the break, as the Lady Eagles pulled away for a 5-2 victory to spoil the Lady Little Lions’ Senior Night and Statement Night at Memorial Field.
Cumberland Valley (14-0, 10-0 Mid Penn Conference), whose powerful offense built a 35-14 advantage in shots, entered the night ranked 11th in the United Soccer Coaches Association national high school poll.
“We were confident going into the second half knowing we can stick with a team like Cumberland Valley,” said senior Payton Porter, who scored an early goal for the Lady Little Lions (9-4, 6-4).
Emma Kerber also netted a goal as State College, which had a four-game win streak snapped, twice held first-half leads and were knotted 2-2 at the break.
“We were trying to get the thought process out that they can play with a team of this caliber,” Lady Little Lions coach Doug Bates said. “We’ve been building up to this day. We’ve switched some things up tactically and it’s been working for us. ... It was the moment we’ve been hoping for.”
Selkirk spoiled the moment, tapping in a loose ball in the penalty box after State College keeper Kristen Lenze collided with an Eagles player to give her team a lead it would never relinquish. Lenze also suffered an injury on the play and had to leave the game, though Bates said the junior keeper should be back for their next match. Jenny Mejia finished the contest and the duo combined for 14 saves.
The goal, however, was a body blow.
“That’s a tough one to give up,” Bates said. “Part of the talk at halftime was, ‘You know they’re frustrated that it’s a 2-2 game right now and they’re going to come out hard.’ To have that letdown right away certainly was hurtful.”
Mallory Johnson and Emily Mashinski added insurance goals in the final 10 minutes to wrap up the win.
The goal of the night, however, came from State College just over 14 minutes in.
With a throw-in from the sideline just past the stadium’s main bleachers, Erica Feese delivered a perfect full-flip pass to the center of the box right to Esther Seeland. The senior deflected the ball right to Porter for the put-away, chipping it just under the crossbar.
“You can’t draw those up perfectly like that,” Bates said. “But it did work out that way.”
If the throw-in was at a different point on the field, Bates said, they could not have Feese use the flip move, but that spot had extra room for her to deliver the longer pass — and a huge dose of energy to the team.
“That gave us a lot of confidence,” Porter said. “Obviously, they haven’t lost this season. We haven’t beaten them, come close to beating them, in my past four years here.”
Taylor Jede tied the game with 16:11 left in the first half when a long lob into the box was stopped by Lenze, but the ball slipped through her hands behind her, with Jede waiting alone for the tap-in.
State College took the lead again when Maya Bokunewicz chipped the ball to Kerber from about 10 yards out. The Lady Little Lions had just four shots attempted in the first half, and the only two on goal found the net.
The Eagles had the match knotted again just before halftime when Kyra Place fired from a tight angle to just inside the far post.
“Playing against a team like that you can’t make very many mistakes,” Porter said. “Or else they’re going to punish you like they did with us today.”