PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Lady Raiders of Brookville travelled to Punxsy to take on the Lady Chucks soccer team Thursday afternoon, and although the muddy conditions from the hard rain earlier in the day equalized the playing field, Brookville came out on top with a 1-0 win.
"I think the field seemed to be a bit of an equalizer for us," Brookville head coach Chip Mason said after the game. "When we walked onto the field, we figured it'd be a game where we had to dump and run, because we just didn't think we could carry the ball very well on it."
Punxsy, considered the underdog entering the game, did all it could to use the equalizer to its advantage, but in the end came up just short.
"Any adversity awards the underdog," Punxsy head coach Kevin Hughes said. "I considered us the underdog today ... They had a lot more shots in this game than they did last game, though, which concerns me a bit. Part of it was we may've had a little harder time with the loose field than they did."
Brookville came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, but Mason credited the fact that they had several scoring opportunities in the first 10 minutes to the field conditions, as well.
"It made for an interesting game," he said. "Once the ball got stuck on one half of the field, it was difficult for either team to get it out. We've been coming out flat the last couple games, and the ball just seemed to get trapped in and stay there. So, we got a couple of chances. It wasn't really that we were pumped up for it, but they just couldn't seem to get it out for a while."
Brookville's Michelle Crissman wasted no time giving the Lady Raiders their first scoring opportunity in the first minute when she fired a shot at keeper Aly Dickey, who handled it for the Lady Chucks.
Hughes pointed to strong play in the net by Dickey as an asset in keeping Punxsy in the game.
In the fourth minute, Brookville's Ali Ruffner fired a corner kick through the goal box, but nobody was near enough to push it home.
In the 10th and 11th minutes, Lady Raider sophomore Julie Shields had back-to-back scoring opportunities, but knocked each one just over the crossbar.
From that point on, the majority of the remaining time in the first half was played in the center of the field with good defense on both ends prevailing.
In the 34th minute, Punxsy managed its first shot on goal when Ashley Bacha drove a shot on cage from 30 yards out, but the scoreboard still showed no score at halftime.
As it did in the first half, Brookville held possession for the first five minutes of the second half, and finally cashed in on a scoring opportunity just four minutes into the period when Annie Amsler banged one home cross-post behind Dickey.
One minute before the goal, Dickey had made an impressive save on a shot by Ruffner, and although Amsler's shot wasn't the hardest, it was perfectly placed.
The game settled into a defensive stalemate again for the next 15 minutes before Punxsy forward Sierra Milton broke free for a potential breakaway.
Unfortunately for the Lady Chucks, Brookville committed a smart foul, bringing Milton down and ending the threat.
The ensuing free kick was pushed wide of the net, and Punxsy's momentum was stalled.
Although the Lady Chucks didn't manage many shots on goal, Hughes liked what he saw in their chances.
"We actually had a lot more looks today," Hughes said of Punxsy's opportunities. "Once Brookville's defense is beat, they don't just lay back. They had some good blocks and a smart foul that stopped Sierra from scoring."
Hughes also attributed some of the scoring chances to the aggressive play of his defenders.
"Defensively, what I really liked to see was our wind defenders starting to participate in setting up our offense," he said. "Typically, I have to yell, 'Check into that,' but tonight, toward the end especially, Kelsey Young and Sierra had some awesome combinations down here, and almost set us up for another score, so we are getting better."
With four minutes remaining, Punxsy earned what would be its final scoring attempt, and its best of the game.
After some beautiful ball movement, Punxsy's Emily Horner ended up with the ball with just one defender to beat in Brookville's Sam Byerly. Byerly's defensive effort proved to be just enough for the Lady Raiders, though, as she deflected Horner's shot out of bounds at the last second.
"Sammy made a really nice play to sweep it out of bounds," Mason said.
Hughes noted that both Emily and Anna Horner stepped up and played well on the inside to force Brookville's hand, at times, but he did say the Lady Chucks "still have some things to work on."
Defensively, Hughes wanted to highlight the play of Sarah Heitzenrater, who he said had some very nice clears when the Lady Chucks needed them most.
Thursday's meeting between the two teams was the second and final one of the season, but both coaches said this is a game they look forward to on their schedules.
"Kevin's got the girls playing some good soccer, and it's more competitive than it's been in the past," Mason said. "It makes for a good rivalry."
"Chip's been around the game for a long time, and I really like competing against Brookville." Hughes said. "I know we'll get quality play — and physical play — but they're also a clean team."
Punxsy is idle today, but jumps right back into action with another home game against Elk County Catholic Saturday at 10 a.m.