SOMERSET — Northern Bedford and Windber battled hard for 80 minutes in Wednesday’s District 5-A girls’ soccer final.
Both teams had their chances in the opening half but played to a scoreless half. In the second half, second-seeded Northern Bedford got on the board early, but the top seeds wasted little time to tie things up, 1-1. In the end, Windber chipped in a go-ahead goal with just about eight minutes remaining to secure the title, 2-1.
“They played their hearts out,” said Northern Bedford coach Barb Zanella of her girls. “They played a great game, it could have gone either way. It just didn’t go our way this time. But the girls played well.
“I am very proud of them. They hustled the entire game. They left it all out on the field. We’re ready for the state competition.”
The season isn’t over for Northern Bedford with the top two teams in the District 5-A girls’ bracket advancing to the state tournament. The Lady Black Panthers will face the WPIAL champion next Tuesday on the road. The WPIAL final will take place on Friday with top-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic facing third-seeded Steel Valley.
Windber faces third-place finishing Freedom from the WPIAL. The Lady Ramblers will host the Lady Bulldogs.
Going back and forth for most of the game, Northern Bedford used a cluster of players to finally get on the board with 26:10 left in the game.
The Lady Black Panthers were awarded a corner kick. Ashley Kichman took the kick and booted the ball to a sea of players. Several Lady Black Panthers took shots while the Windber goalie fell to the ground trying to get the ball. She never scooped up the ball with her Lady Rambler defenders trying to help her out. The ball bounced over to NBC’s Mariah Hall, and the senior Lady Black Panthers pushed the ball into the back of the net.
The goal by Northern Bedford was the first goal Windber allowed in the playoffs. It was also the first goal the Lady Ramblers gave up since their Oct. 12 game against Rockwood.
Not even a full two minutes later, Windber’s Riley Ott took the ball down the field and tied the game with an unassisted goal, 1-1.
The two teams continued to battle as the both desperately searched for the golden goal.
With 7:49 remaining, Ott pushed the ball ahead to Mariah Andrews, and the sophomore forward put the ball into the back of the net — securing Windber the 2-1 victory.
“Mariah was ready,” Zanella noted on Hall’s goal. “They just kept pounding. That’s what this team does. They just go at it and go at it.
“I think they surprised a lot of teams this year. I think they surprised Windber today. I knew it was going to be a tight game. It could have went either way.”
Entering the game, both Northern Bedford and Windber were evenly matched.
Both teams entered having allowed just 12 goals each, with seven of the 12 goals Windber allowed came to another Bedford County school — Bedford.
Windber’s keeper Lexie James faced just one penalty kick before the final. She went up against Northern Bedford’s Emily Heck in the first half after Hall was shoved down inside the box. Heck’s shot rang off of the cross bar, then the fight for the ball was called dead.
Abby Kline also had several chances to put the locals on the board early, but every single chance landed in the hands of James.
The Lady Ramblers also had several chances throughout the game with Northern Bedford keeper Evie Long making the saves.
In the end, Windber outshot Northern Bedford, 14-10.
District 5-A Final No. 1 WINDBER 2, No. 2 NORTHERN BEDFORD 1
Northern Bedford 0 1 — 1
Windber 0 2 — 2