CAMP HILL - Mifflin County's girls soccer team has shown signs of improvement as the season has progressed, and in the scoreboard sense, did so again Tuesday in a 5-0 Commonwealth Division loss to Cedar Cliff.
But improvement is just a step, and it doesn't seem satisfying to first-year coach Steven DeArment, especially when he sees his team victimizing itself with error-prone play that it can hardly afford.
He may have narrowed down the cause after this game, in which the Huskies played a much stronger second half than the first. The team, he said, "doesn't get off the bus well."
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Mifflin County’s Kaitlyn Eckley, left, and Cedar Cliff’s Lauren Esser race for the ball down the sidelines Tuesday in Camp Hill.
If the bus ride wasn't bad enough, the Colts made it worse with their first goal coming just five minutes into the game, when Katie Jaxheimer - who had two of the five tallies in the contest - dribbled into the box after a short corner and knocked the ball into the net.
"They played tough but it just was one of those days. We just weren't ready to play," DeArment said. "We made a lot of mental mistakes, we were out of position a lot of times. I think we forgot ourselves a little bit in the first half and it showed."
In terms of defensibility, that was probably the worst goal the Huskies allowed in the game. Before the first was over, Cedar Cliff bent another one past Huskies keeper Halle Fisher from the top corner of the box, and Maddie Ortenzio came up with the ball in a crowd to make it 3-0.
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Mifflin County hosts Chambersburg Thursday
In between those scores, Mifflin County had just a few upfield drives - Cedar Cliff was controlling the play, and restricting it mostly to the Huskies' back third, taking advantage of its deeper bench and using a businesslike approach to playing the ball.
Mifflin County's strength was on the ground - the Huskies were better with their feet on the ball than when they tried to pass, with too many efforts going to an empty spot on the field, or worse yet, to one occupied by a white uniform.
"There were spells. There were short bursts of passing and playing soccer," DeArment said. "Every time we ran forward that's what happened - we connected a couple passes, we moved the ball better and were in spaces. In between that, it was, 'let's try to knock it upfield' like we're rec league players."
The Huskies' best opportunity in the first half - maybe their best in the game - was on a direct kick midway through the half, which nearly lofted out of the grasp of Colts keeper Kristin James.
And Cedar Cliff was denied what could have been a fourth goal in the half when a ball bounced off the inside of the crossbar and chose to come out of the goal instead of into it. As the half ticked away, the Huskies stepped it up on defense and Fisher played her best in goal to stop a late attack and hold the score where it had been for 15 minutes.
The start of the second was much like the first - after another crossbar shot, Jaxheimer nailed her second goal with a drive right into the front. Eight minutes later, the scoring portion of the game ended when Miranda Galluci sent a cross into the goal.
On the plus side, that was two fewer goals than the Colts scored in the first meeting - and this was on their field. On the minus side, Mifflin County was in a 1-1 tie at the half of that first game, and didn't score in this one.
"We played a little better in the second half. There were small periods where we looked OK," DeArment said. "If we can put that together with how we played against Red Land we'll be alright in the next couple games. It just wasn't good enough today."
The Huskies continued to be hurt by a lack of secondary support when they did move the ball, and benefited from a little bit of good luck, too - a Colts direct sailed over the goal with 10 minutes to play, and two minutes later, with Fisher out of the goal to challenge, a shot rolled wide.
Mifflin County (1-11) hosts Chambersburg Thursday.