Even State College sophomore Alison Houtz didn’t think the shot was going in.
Her 25-yard attempt in the first half — which led to a 1-0 Lady Little Lions win and 10th straight girls’ soccer district championship Tuesday — was not a high-percentage shot. It was one she didn’t practice.
The defender had just one goal in the previous 19 contests. But, with no one open against Altoona, she decided to send it to the net on a free kick and hope for the best. She didn’t anticipate the ball to hit the bottom-portion of the crossbar and bounce in for an unlikely-but-incredibly-impressive goal.
“It was crazy,” she said. “I didn’t think it was going to go in, I’m not going to lie. I just stood there in shock for a second.”
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Houtz’s score, just 6:52 into the game, proved to be the difference-maker for State College in the District 6 Class 4A championship at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium. Thanks to her effort, the Lady Little Lions will next play the District 10 champ — either Erie or McDowell — on Saturday in a PIAA play-in game at a site and time to be determined.
“She’s got a phenomenal leg, and she was just feeling confident tonight,” her coach, Doug Bates, said. “I could tell by the way she was playing.”
State College dominated play for much of the game Tuesday, although the scoreboard didn’t reflect the pace. The Lady Little Lions often controlled possession and boasted numerous opportunities on which they just couldn’t capitalize.
During a 10-minute stretch in the second half, for example, State College nearly found the back of the net on five occasions. One soft header fell straight into the waiting goalkeeper’s arms. Another header hit the goalpost, and the rebound was hit directly to the keeper. And yet another ball smacked against the lower left-corner of the post — and the rebound was kicked over the crossbar.
State College out-shot Altoona 11-4 and had twice as many corner kicks, 2-1, in the victory. After the final whistle, players — wrapped up in hoodies and blankets in the 38-degree weather — accepted their PIAA medals with smiles and posed for photos by holding up 10 fingers to represent their district streak.
Sophomore Maya Bokunewicz was one of the many Lady Little Lions to pose with the trophy.
“We were very motivated to get that 10th win,” she said. “It’s a really special experience.”
Added Bates, the first-year coach: “It’s huge, and I think that says a lot about the strength of the program as a whole. A great foundation has been laid here.”
Houtz was one of the first players to receive her medal. She quickly added a gray hoodie atop her short-sleeved shirt and cozied up to a teammate with a red blanket.
She said she was just 5 years old, playing in the sand on a California beach, when State College’s district streak started. And, thanks to her goal, she was with the team for No. 10 on Tuesday.
“Ten consecutive years is really a long time,” she said. “Going through so many coaches, and we’re still all standing together. We’re one team.”