HOLLIDAYSBURG - Micheh Horning's 69th-minute goal was too little, too late as Juniata fell to Westmont-Hilltop, 3-1, in the semifinals of the District 6 Class AA girls soccer tournament, ending the Indians' remarkable season.
"I thought we played well tonight," Juniata coach Brian Strawser said. "I thought the girls came out and gave 80 strong minutes. They certainly did not quit. We made just a couple little mistakes and they made us pay for all of them. Unfortunately, we weren't able to capitalize on their mistakes."
One of those mistakes resulted in an early goal by Shyleigh Hughes of Westmont-Hilltop, who scored five minutes into the game to start things for the Hilltoppers and put Juniata in a quick hole.
Sentinel photo by TAMI KNOPSNYDER
Juniata’s Lauren Lock, right, and Westmont Hilltop’s Isabella Letzo battle for the ball during the first half of their District 6 Class AA girls soccer semifinal Monday night in Hollidaysburg.
Juniata had two chances to even the score in the following six minutes of action.
Just 30 seconds after the Westmont-Hilltop goal, Carly Burns had a shot from eight yards out inside the box, but it cleared both Hilltoppers' goalkeeper Madison Milligan and the goal, keeping the game at 1-0.
Juniata's next opportunity came with 29:37 to play in the opening half came when Milligan came out to challenge a shot.
Juniata elevated the shot over Milligan, but a Westmont-Hilltop defensive player was there to clear the ball and retain the lead.
"I think what happened was we weren't able to finish our chances," Strawser said.
The Indians had another good chance with 12:46 left in the first half.
Micheh Horning dribbled in down the middle and it looked like she was able to go head-to-head with Milligan.
But Maura Milligan came in from the right side and slid in, disrupting the shot and holding the 1-0 lead for Westmont-Hilltop.
Not long after, the Hilltoppers added their second goal of the night. Francesca Ramirez got a look from the left wing and deposited it into the right-hand corner of the net to give Westmont-Hilltop a 2-0 lead with 10 minutes to play in the opening half.
"I think it was important for us to get a goal at the halftime," Strawser said. "2-0 can be a tough lead to come back from."
Juniata needed to cut into that lead, but the Indians were denied again with 38 seconds left in the half.
They got a shot from the middle and Madison Milligan dove and deflected it for her fourth save of the opening half, preserving the 2-0 lead.
"Their goalie was very good," Strawser said. "She had herself in the right position all night long for them. She made a great save on that one. If I was giving an MVP for their team tonight, I would give it to their goalie. She was calm, cool, and collected back there when she had to be and we certainly tested her."
Juniata again was able to control possession of the ball to open the second half. That control led to a good shot with around 34 minutes to play in the game.
Burns fired a shot from around the 10-yard marker, which cleared a jumping Milligan as well as the goal and crossbar.
Several of the chances that Juniata had were thwarted by Westmont's aggressive play toward the ball.
Numerous times Juniata looked like it had an open path to the goal or a chance to fire on Milligan, but the Westmont-Hilltop defensive players attacked the feet of the Juniata players.
Juniata finally got to Milligan in the 69th minute when Micheh Horning scored to make it 2-1 Westmont-Hilltop.
Juniata had a flurry of opportunities with around six minutes to play in the game. Horning had another shot and Christen Baublitz had two, but none of them found the back of the net.
The Hilltoppers put a rest to Juniata's comeback hope with 3:44 to play in the game when Isabella Letzo scored their third goal of the night.
What could easily have been a tie game, turned into a 3-1 win for Westmont-Hilltop over a two-minute span.
"We were hoping to do more," Strawser said. "We had some pretty lofty goals. It was a bit of a crazy season for us. We had some games we didn't play well and lost and some games we played very, very well and lost."
Juniata's season ends at 13-6.