H.S. GIRLS SOCCER: Southern Columbia advances to D-4 semifinals
ALMEDIA - For more than three-quarters of the game, Southern Columbia couldn't get a shot past East Juniata goalkeeper Lydia Hunter, and the top-seeded Tigers were getting frustrated - and worried.
Then relief came, from all people, freshman Christina Podpora, whose rebound goal gave Southern a 1-0 lead with 14:33 remaining.
But with less than five minutes to play, East Juniata, on its only corner all day, tied the game on a goal by Amber Knouse, who got a perfect bounce off the corner kick from McKayla Goodling, and all of a sudden, worry gave way to desperation.
But just over a minute and a half later, Maddie Stabinski crossed a ball in front of the goal and Haley Levan headed it in to give Southern (17-1-1) a scary 2-1 win and a berth in the semifinals Tuesday against Troy, at a site to be determined.
"It got a lot hairy," Southern head coach Derek Stine said, chuckling. "But it was just one of those deals where we kept telling the girls that it (a good shot) is there. Just keep working on it."
Podpora's goal came off a carom from a shot by Aly Stavinski, who took a nice cross from Stabinski and took a shot of her own. Podpora had just come into the game moments before, and the goal was only her second of the season, according to Stine.
"We thought Christina's sliding goal did it. She made a great play, and on her birthday, too. But then we took a nap," Stine said.
Knouse's goal was the kind that sometimes can totally deflate a favored team, but Southern wasted no time in getting the ball downfield. This time Stabinski crossed the ball to the center, and Levan was in good position to head the ball in with 2:51 remaining.
"I knew I was going to get a header sometime before the game was over. It was just a matter of when," the sophomore said.
"Haley is real good with her head," Stine said. "We knew she'd have a good shot if she had a chance but we didn't know if that would come. She did a good job getting open."
Up until the final 15 minutes, the game increasingly looked like it might go East Juniata's way. Hunter stopped 15 shots before Southern scored, and Southern's players were starting to mutter to themselves.
"Our goalie played very well," said East Juniata head coach Lori Goodling.
Southern had about a half dozen pretty good scoring opportunities, including a couple of direct kicks by Mackenzie Clark which went over the crossbar, a header by Levan which just missed late in the first half, and a rebound shot by Clark off a feed from Bailey Bzdak about 10 minutes into the second half.
"We just had to keep pushing the ball up," Levan said. "We didn't the seniors to lose."
East Juniata had some close misses, too, though fewer than Southern, which had a 19-8 shot advantage and a 3-1 corner edge.
Stine said it wasn't necessarily a bad thing for his team to get a scare this early in the postseason.
"This was a good win," he said. "We've had some easy games and this kind of puts things back in perspective a bit. I think we'll be alright."
East Juniata (11-8) 0 1 - 1
Southern Columbia (17-1-1) 0 2 - 2