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The two District 3 Class 3A tournament closers – Wilson and Lower Dauphin – ended the final title game as expected.
It went into overtime.
A Falcons defender blatantly tripped up a Bulldog attacker along the baseline at the end of regulation. Both players were brought to the ground. A stroke was awarded. And, Wilson scored.
The 2-2 tie forced the game into a 10-minute sudden victory period.
In the end, the Falcons worked the ball up the field from the Bulldog’s offensive 50 into their scoring territory. Lower Dauphin’s Katelyn Strawser and Avery Pollock finished the passing series to end the game.
The Falcons won 3-2 to reclaim the district title.
“We have been working on 7-aside a lot,” Pollock said. “We just did a double overtime in our last game against Penn Manor. And we were able to finish in double overtime. We were like, ‘we’re finishing this now, and we’re going to get done early.’”
“We didn’t want to have to go into double overtime,” she said. “We wanted to get it done early, and that’s what we did.”
Just under two minutes into overtime, Strawser was able to pace a beautiful give and go with Pollock. Strawser put away the game-winner.
“The goal that we had was set up with five good passes,” Lower Dauphin head coach Linda Kreiser said. “It went out to the side and then it went in and then it went up and then Katelyn and Avery. Avery passed it to Katelyn for the finish. You have to pass a lot in 7-aside because you have the space. We wanted to score in the first five minutes, and they did, so that was good.”
The two juniors are known to work well together. It was obvious they adjusted their overtime strategy.
“Katelyn and I are very comfortable with each other, and we know our play and we really have been working on passing in the circle,” Pollock said. “So, our goal for this game, because last 7-aside, we were very far apart. We were going to work on staying closer together, and that obviously really helped us a lot.”
The Falcons came out hot in overtime and shut down Wilson’s attacking efforts quickly.
“In overtime, the whole goal is possession,” Wilson head coach Kim Underwood said. “And we didn’t keep possession of the ball. We had it twice, and we gave it away twice.”
Possession and getting “shots on cage when it was open” were the Bulldogs downfall, she said.
“We had shots, and they didn’t take,” she said. “They were too soft to put it into the net when given the chance.”
But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Lower Dauphin’s defense shut down the Bulldogs’ attack time and time again.
“We knew how strong they were up the middle,” Kreiser said. “We had to keep the ball away from their strong people. First quarter, we didn’t do a very good job of that. That’s why they got the lead, 1-0. And that was on a transition. But overall, I thought our defense did a nice job of staying with their strong players.”
The Bulldogs’ first goal came a minute from the end of the first quarter.
Erika Culp carried the ball down Wilson’s right side and entered the circle near the baseline. Lower Dauphin’s goalie, Payton Killian, went down, and Culp lifted over her. But it was Macy Adams who finished for the Bulldogs by batting Culp’s lift into the net.
Heading into the quarter break, Wilson was up 1-0.
The retaliating goal came when Lower Dauphin earned a corner 30 seconds into the second quarter.
Brynn Shaffer inserted to Pollock, and Pollock ripped a rocket of a shot to the opposite post.
“We started the game down,” Pollock said. “It was good to get the first goal on the board, and it reset the whole game. It was just right by the goalie.”
The even 1-1 contest tested both teams.
“Avery’s corner shot was on today,” Kreiser said. “She really had some nice ones. The first one she just blasted it right past the keeper.”
Pollock struck again in the third. She entered the circle halfway through the quarter and fired another hard shot at Catherine Wolf, Wilson’s keeper.
Wolf made the initial save, but the rebound was quickly picked up by Strawser. Strawser didn’t hesitate to take a second shot.
“(Avery) had a reverse, the goalie got it, and I got the rebound and fought for it to go in,” Strawser said.
Defensively, Killian and senior captain Morgan Sparks dealt with imperfections as they happened.
“It was a pretty intense game the whole way through,” Sparks said. “And I knew that they tend to shoot for post and there would be a lot of them coming my way, so I prepped a lot during practice.”
Sparks had a particularly shining moment in the third quarter when, on a Wilson corner, she made a defensive save just a step out from the goal line. She cleared the ball to Lower Dauphin’s left side.
“I had to keep my stick down and be confident and get it out,” Sparks said.
The 2-1 lead was Lower Dauphin’s until its defense tripped up Wilson’s player. Emma Staron was chosen to step up to the stroke mark for her team. Underwood said she had “a hundred percent confidence” in her choice.
“She had a great game,” Underwood said. “She’s a great kid. Solid. Steady as you can have as a player. She’s our center-back.”
Staron, who is committed to the University of Albany, is one of four on Wilson’s squad who “are that good” under pressure, Underwood said.
“We’ve let (Caitlyn Mosemar) take three of the strokes,” she said. “She’s been 100 percent as well from previous games.”
And the stroke didn’t look like it was Staron’s first.
Staron easily placed the ball as close to the post as you can get without hitting it. The perfect shot was just out of reach for Lower Dauphin’s Kai Killian.
It was Kai’s only play of the game. Kai stepped in for her older sister Payton, who is the team’s starter.
“Payton’s the senior who plays and Kai is the sophomore who’s the up-and-comer,” Kreiser said. “But in practice, (Kai is) so good at diving, and to save a stroke, you want to be able to dive. But that stroke was just perfect in the side net, and she couldn’t get it. If it would had been an inch or two, she would have got a hand on it.”
When the team takes strokes in practice, Kai “saves more than Payton does,” Kreiser said.
“(Erin Catalfano)’s our defensive coach, and she said, ‘Coach, let’s make a change.’ And I trust her,” Kreiser said.
The stroke was the equalizer Wilson was seeking.
“It was pretty defeating,” Pollock said, “because we worked so hard and then we got that call and they scored.”
But the Falcons were able to pull through and claim the program’s sixteenth 3A title.
“It just really shows how powerful our program is and the depth of it to have two years in a row of wins, and next year, we’ll see what happens,” Strawser said. “We’re excited for next year already.”
Pollock added: “We’re more excited for states, though.”
This was Wilson’s third appearance at the 3A districts championship game. The last time was in 2019, where they lost to Lower Dauphin 2-0.
The team has 17 seniors and 45 players.
“I think we had moments where we did extremely well, and then there was moments when we didn’t finish when we had open net,” Underwood said. “We went through their low block tackles a lot when we should have been going around them.”
Both teams will play in the PIAA State Tournament starting on November 8.
- Goals – Strawser (2), Pollock (1)
- Assists – Shaffer (1), Pollock (1)
- Shots – 9
- Penalty corners – 5
- Saves – Payton Killian (7) Defensive save Morgan Sparks
- Goals – Adams (1), Staron (1)
- Assists – Culp (1)
- Shots – 9
- Penalty corners – 5
- Saves – Wolf (6)