By Chuck Souders
and Tim Zyla
For The Citizen-Standard
ALMEDIA — Sixth-seeded Line Mountain’s improbable run to its first field hockey district championship since 2000 culminated in a most improbable way Thursday.
Sierra Bobb scored a goal off a penalty corner with no time left on the clock at the end of the first overtime period to give the Eagles a 2-1 win over top-seeded Bloomsburg, but the win was even more improbable than that goal suggests.
Bloomsburg outshot the Eagles, 16-7, and had an 11-3 edge in penalty corners, including 8-0 in the second half. In addition, things looked very dark when Bloomsburg’s Lauren Brouse finally broke a scoreless tie with just 7:36 remaining in the game.
Improbably (there’s that word again), the Eagles’ Natalie Scheib scored just a minute and 10 seconds later, forcing the overtime.
The Eagles (13-7-1) will take on the fifth-place team from District Three, either Tulpehocken (15-7) or Newport (16-5) in the first round of Class A state playoffs Tuesday at a site to be determined. Tulpehocken and Newport will play each other Saturday. Bloomsburg (16-4-1) will play the District 11 champion.
Line Mountain had a chance to put the game away in the first minute of overtime when the Eagles had a penalty stroke but Bloomsburg’s goalkeeper made a save.
“That was a big opportunity lost,” Bobb said. “But we just forgot about it and kept playing.”
Bobb said her winning goal came after the Eagles switched their usual pattern for corners because Bloomsburg was prepared for it.
“We switched it up,” she said. “They do a good job of matching up with you in corners. When the ball was hit it was chaos but I saw an opening on the right side and took the shot.”
“I’m on Cloud Nine; I feel great,” said Line Mountain head coach Ashtin Klingler, who is in her first season as head coach. “The girls have met and exceeded all my expectations. They had to get used to me and I had to get used to them. They’ve bought into what I was trying to sell. I’m big into pressuring the ball (on defense).
“From my end, I’ve been a little more vocal with my feedback when players come off the field. It’s been a real roller coaster. Playing Selinsgrove and Greenwood during the regular season helped us; they’re two really tough teams.”
The Eagles also got a big helping hand from freshman goalkeeper Olivia Smeltz, who had to step in for sophomore Brooke Wilkinson when the latter suffered a midseason injury. Smeltz made eight saves for the Panthers, facing off a couple of breakaway threats.
“My team has helped me all the way,” Smeltz said. “Particularly Tori Wolfe and Lillia Lucas on defense. They put their confidence in me and Brooke has been a big inspiration. We’ve played together since I was in seventh grade.”
Bobb said Scheib’s quick goal after Bloomsburg took a 1-0 lead was possibly the difference in the game, which the Panthers had begun to dominate statistically.
“I think they didn’t expect us to come right back and score that goal,” Bobb said. “I think that took a little bit out of them.”
Line Mtn. (13-7-1) 0 1 1 — 2
Bloomsburg (16-4-1) 0 1 0 — 1
B — Lauren Brouse (Maddie McCarty), 7:36 2nd
LM — Natalie Scheib (Ashley Schreffler), 6:26 2nd
LM — Sierra Bobb, penalty corner, 0:00 OT
Shots: Line Mountain 7, Bloomsburg 16. Penalty corners: Line Mountain 6, Bloomsburg 11. Saves: Bloomsburg 6, Line Mountain (Olivia Smeltz) 8.
Line Mountain 3, Lewisburg 2 OT
SELINSGROVE — There’s not a single metric on a stat sheet that can explain how sixth-seeded Line Mountain upset second-seeded Lewisburg 3-2 in overtime Tuesday in the District IV Class A semifinals at Selinsgrove.
The Eagles were outshot 14 to six, but used a 14 to nine advantage in penalty corners to show just how proficient they were at executing the set plays that have been practiced time and time again throughout the season.
After all, efficiency does count for something.
“We’ve done a lot of tipping drills and a lot of inside the circle work at practices this year,” head coach Ashtin Klingler said. “That’s what I’ve harped on all year. Those are our scoring opportunities and, you know, they went out there today and they did it perfect.”
None can attest to that statement more than freshman Samantha Snyder, who used a position she had practiced throughout the year to make a diving deflection of a ball shot by Natalie Scheib to end the game with just over nine minutes remaining in overtime, sending the Eagles to the Class A district championship scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday against Bloomsburg at a site to be determined.
“All I saw was the ball coming across the net and I knew I had to get my stick on it,” Snyder said. “I’m happy for our team. We’ve worked so hard this year and to come out and do this is amazing.”
Line Mountain jumped out to an early lead four minutes into the game on the Eagles’ first shot of the game from junior Natalie Scheib, the team’s leading scorer.
Lewisburg responded six minutes later on a sweep from Lewisburg’s Cassie Sumfest, the first of two goals for the University of North Carolina commit.
The Eagles took back the lead with no time remaining in the first half after stringing together eight penalty corner opportunities in the final four minutes of the half before Scheib once again got a ball past Lewisburg goalkeeper Hannah Stewart.
Two minutes into the second half, Sumfest struck again to tie the game at two apiece, blasting the ball past several defenders from just inside the circle on an extraordinary shot.
Line Mountain held its ground throughout the rest of the half, managing to fend off an onslaught of Lewisburg offense without surrendering a goal.
As dominant as the Lewisburg offense looked throughout regulation, and the same could be said for Line Mountain’s defense, the Eagle offense switched into a higher gear during the seven-on-seven overtime period.
“They’re a really fast team,” Klingler said of Lewisburg. “But we knew we could win by playing solid field hockey, and that’s what we did today. I’m really proud of the girls.”