T-D HS Soccer

Rams work OT for crown

By: Cory Isenberg

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Richland freshman Emily Hill fired a ball past Bishop Guilfoyle goalkeeper Gabby Smith to give Richland a 2-1 victory in double overtime Tuesday night in the District 6 Class A girls soccer championship.
“I knew that I had to score a goal for my team to win,” said Hill after her team claimed its fifth district crown in the past six years. “My mind was clear and I was watching her mimic what she was going to do. She kind of went to her left and I knew she was going that way and I hit it the opposite of her and it went in. It was just amazing. I have no words to describe how it feels right now.”
There was a huge difference between the Richland team that played Bishop Guilfoyle during the regular season and the one that played Tuesday night in the district title game.
“This was a totally different game and we knew that was going to be the case,” Richland coach Nathan Gironda. “We kind of knew that what they saw from us in that game near the beginning of the season was not what we are now. Totally different field and the soccer field conditions make a big difference. Our style of play very much suits a big field on a fast surface. We also have completely changed our roster since then and they completely outmatched us back then. There were two goals in the first five minutes of the game.”
When the two teams squared off again on Tuesday, the aggressive Rams defense seemed to disturb the rhythm of the top-seeded Marauders and there was no score after the first half.
“I think that overall we are a young team and I think that we never really gained our composure throughout the match,” Bishop Guilfoyle coach Harry McGhee said. “We played an excellent match, a good possession match, but I think with their relentless pressure they hurried us to make decisions that we didn’t want to make and to pass before we wanted to.
“We had opportunities, but we just didn’t take care of the ball as well as we normally do and with their relentless pressure that created confusion. It just sort of disrupted us.”
The Rams got on the board first, scoring off a corner kick by junior Karissa Wellington. The ball left Wellington’s foot and appeared to go in off of Smith with 33:34 left in regulation.
“One thing that I feel we have that other teams don’t is real talented defenders and I knew we could match up with their strikers one-on-one with them,” Gironda said. “It was just a matter of our forwards creating opportunities.”
Bishop Guilfoyle, the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference champs, evened the game at the 18:15 mark when Alana Hallinan sent a cross to Alyssa McGhee, who hit an open shot to the left corner of the net past Richland sophomore goalkeeper Courtney Syfert.
“Courtney has been spectacular all year, making the saves that she should make and then a couple extra,” Gironda said. “That’s what you want for your keeper. For her to hold such a high-scoring offense to just one goal is amazing.”
Neither team could score in the first overtime sending the game to the second extra period and setting up Hill’s goal.
“We basically said that we had to make sure to cover our marks and look for the open passes,” Hill said. “We did what coach told us to do and we scored off of it.”
“She wanted to win that game and embraced the opportunity and that’s what I want from players,” Gironda said.
Richland will advance to the PIAA playoffs, facing the District 4-3 team next Tuesday.

Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/coryisenbergTD.