|DISTRICT 4 GIRLS SOCCER: SINDONI LIFTS ATHENS TO OVERTIME WIN — LADY WILDCATS ADVANCE TO CLASS AAA TITLE GAME (24 PHOTOS) (2018-10-31)
HUTCHISON BREAKS SCHOOL RECORD FOR CAREER GOALS
By TIM BIRNEYValley Sports Report
LOYALSOCK TOWNSHIP — After losing their first game in the District 4 playoffs in each of the last two years, junior Abby Sindoni lifted top-seeded Athens to a 2-1 overtime win over fourth-seeded Shikellamy here Wednesday evening in the semifinals of the Class AAA playoffs at Kenneth M. Robbins Stadium.
The Lady Wildcats, now 14-3, will face third-seeded Mifflinburg (12-6-1), a 1-0 winner of Selinsgrove, Saturday at noon at Central Columbia High School in the District 4, Class AAA championship game.
“We got the monkey off our backs,” said third-year coach Rich Pitts, who was 44-6-2 in the regular season with the Lady Wildcats, but 0-2 in the postseason.
‘When you’re here people say, ‘you can win the league, but you can’t win a district game,’ he noted.
“We’ve been a little snake-bit the last couple years.
“I thought we were the better team last year,” added Pitts in reference to a 1-0 loss to Central Columbia in the quarterfinals.
“You could see how big this win was, we had girls in tears coming off the field after overtime,” said Pitts.
“It’s a big win, and it was 23 strong,” he noted. “The girls off the bench gave a lot of energy.
“To get a victory tonight … sweet,” Pitts added.
It was the first postseason win for the Lady Wildcats since a 4-1 win over Mifflinburg in the 2015 quarterfinals.
After both teams missed on scoring chances early in the game, sophomore Emma Roe chased down a ball along the sidelines from senior Rachel Hutchison, then slid it back to Hutchison in the middle of the field near the top of the 18.
Hutchison dribbled in a few yards, then fired a shot inside the far post to give Athens a 1-0 lead with 18:16 remaining in the first half.
The goal was the 105th of Hutchison's career, breaking the previous school record of 104 held by Kirsten Colegrove.
“We caught (Shikellamy) on a counter-attack,” said Pitts. “We did a great job of playing a ball in, holding it up, and getting on the run.
“Emma Roe came across and we played a ball down the line to her,” he noted. “She did a great job faiking the girl inside, then cutting it outside. She picked her head up and found Rachel (Hutchison).
“It was a fantastic goal,” added Pitts.
Shikellamy pressured the Athens net for the majority of the second half, but only found the net once when Erin Slunger connected from 35 yards out with 22:36 remaining in regulation.
“(Shikellamy) made an adjustment where they played some wide flankers,” said Pitts. “We were a little slow in adjusting to what they did, but I like what we did.
“We had a heads up that (Shik) liked to play the ball over the top to (Madison VanKirk),” he noted. “We put Ari (Gambrel) back there, and she did a great job.”
Gambrell played the first 15 games at forward before being shifted to defense, where she played early in her four-year varsity career, in the second half of the final regular-season game.
“Ari came to me after the Montrose game and said, ‘I will play wherever you want me to play, I just want to win,’” said Pitts. “That’s a consummate team player.”
With 6:25 remaining in the contest, VanKirk beat a sliding Athens keeper Madisyn Joslyn to the ball, and was able to get a shot underneath her, but it rolled just right of the post.
With 3:46 remaining in regulation, senior Emma Adams ripped a shot from near the left sideline, but Shik keeper Shaelynn Bilger was able to knock it down, and control the rebound.
The Lady Wildcats closed out regulation with a flurry of action in front of the Shik net with four scoring opportunities in the final 80 seconds.
Roe, with a defender on her left hip, ripped a beautiful shot into the upper-90 in the right corner of the net, but Bilger came up with a great save.
Moments later, Sindoni came up with a loose ball, dribbled in and fired a shot that Bilger deflected out-of-bounds.
The Lady Wildcats had two corner kicks in the final 35 seconds, with Hutchison’s header on the second one sailing over the crossbar.
Early in overtime, freshman Hannah Walker went down with a cramp, forcing Pitts to take her out of the game.
About 90 seconds later, Sindoni picked up a loose ball in the middle of the field, took a couple of dribbles and lofted a shot from about 35 yards out that sailed over the keeper’s head for the win.
“We played a great team today. They made us work into overtime,” said Pitts. “We had an injury and I put (Abby) Sindoni in and it worked out.
“That kid, for what she’s been through, it’s a fantastic goal for her.
“No one stepped to her,” added Pitts. “She’s a forward by trade, it you give her that space she’s looking. The goalie stepped out, and she played it over her head. When it came off her foot I said ‘that’s a goal.’”
Sindoni said her first instinct was to find an open teammate.
“When I first got the ball, I looked around to see who I could pass to.
“I checked out all my options, then I saw the keeper step outside her line, and I knew right then to chip it in. Luckily it went in,” she said.
“We’ve worked so hard for this, and I think we deserve it,” Sindoni added.
Sindoni, who suffered an ACL injury and had surgery in the spring, was not expected to play this season.
“I wasn’t planning on playing at all this season,” she said. “I was planning on waiting for the travel season, but I love the girls and I love playing for my school, so I decided to come back.
“We are making the most of it,” she added.
Sindoni said she was gassed at the end of regulation.
“My legs were killing me. I couldn’t feel my calves in the last five minutes before overtime,” she said. “I was just praying for the best.”
Athens had a 14-11 advantage in shots-on-goal, and a 4-1 edge in corner kicks.
Joslyn had 10 saves for the Lady Wildcats, and Bilger recorded 12 for Shikellamy.
IN PHOTO 1: Athens senior Rachel Hutchison. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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