The State College girls’ soccer team returned to the state playoffs this season for the first time since 2014 — but the Lady Little Lions’ stay in the tournament did not last long.
The District 6 champs fell to WPIAL runner-up Norwin on Tuesday 4-0 on a slick, snow-covered Mansion Park field in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
“It was cold and slippery,” State College senior Payton Porter said. “We couldn’t feel our feet at all. When we first got here, we were surprised by the field being covered in snow, but they had to deal with it too.
“The level of their play and quality of their players made it a tough game. They had strong players at every position.”
The Lady Little Lions’ defensive-minded game plan held up for the most of the first half, holding Norwin to one late goal, but the Lady Knights put three more on the scoreboard in the second half to advance.
“They have several college recruits on the team; we knew what we were stepping into,” State College coach Doug Bates said. “We withstood their first half attack pretty well but, in the second half, they certainly got the better of us. You’re not going to put many goals in on a team like that.”
At one point this season, Norwin was ranked No. 1 in the national USA Today Sports/United Soccer Coaches poll but were upset by Penn-Trafford in the WPIAL finals. The loss only fueled the Lady Knights’ effort Tuesday night — even if they were caught off-guard by the weather.
“The girls have been ready,” Norwin coach Lauren Karcher said. “We weren’t thrilled with the outcome of the WPIAL final.
“We couldn’t prepare much for the field conditions. Both teams had to deal with it. It put a slight change on how we wanted to come it in the first half, but the girls kept at it, kept attacking.”
Norwin put 20 shots on goal to just three for State College and had 10 corner kicks to two for the Lady Little Lions.
Norwin possessed the ball throughout most of the first half and put a dozen shots on goal, but couldn’t put one in until late in the half.
Eva Frankovic gave the Lady Knights a 1-0 lead with 2:36 remaining in the half with an 18-yard shot from the top of the goal. Katy Ericson’s shot bounced hard off a State College defender to Frankovic for the goal.
Norwin broke the game open with a pair of scores 1:44 apart early in the second half.
Lexy Condro got the first one with a deflection off Alyssa Victor’s free kick from 45 yards out at the 30:32 mark. And Kendro assisted on the ensuing goal with a pass to a streaking Emily Harrigan on the right wing. Harrigan put a low shot to the far post for the three-goal edge with 28:48 left in the game.
Lexi Gray sealed the win with a goal that banged off the crossbar and went in with 1:40 to play.
Norwin advances to the quarterfinals for a game against North Allegheny, which upset Penn-Trafford on Tuesday. State College’s season ends with a 13-8 mark.
After losing to McDowell in the sub-regional game each of the past two years, the Lady Little Lions are still taking pride in clearing that hurdle this season.
“It was a big step forward for the program and us as a team,” Porter said. “We had a good season. There were some games that we lost that we could have had, but everyone enjoyed it. It was a positive environment for everyone.”
Added Bates: “The heart these girls have shown over the last two games has been great. For us to come out against them like this, as loose as we did and go right at them, is all any coach can ask for.”