By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
---- — LEWISBURG -- The public address announcer for the District 4 field hockey championship game had real difficulty pronouncing several of the Selinsgrove starters' names.
So the Seals made it easy for anyone tasked with introducing them in the future. They can simply be called "eight-time defending district champs."
Emily Klingler scored the game-winning goal with just 97 seconds left in overtime, and Selinsgrove won an epic battle with Line Mountain, 3-2, at Bucknell's Graham Field.
The fifth-seeded Seals twice fought back from a one-goal deficit Thursday, and ultimately prevailed in extra time for a second straight game.
"I think the girls were very persistent and believed in themselves," said Selinsgrove coach Cathy Keiser, who won her 20th title in 29 seasons. "They really wanted it. They wanted to be that No. 5 seed that comes through and shows them that we remain No. 1."
Olivia Poltonavage scored both Line Mountain goals on penalty strokes, each putting the No. 2 seed ahead. Selinsgrove's MacKenna Mahan had a hand in both equalizers, scoring the first with a deflection and assisting sister Geneka's goal to ultimately force OT.
"We were down, but you have to just keep up the pressure," said MacKenna Mahan. "We kept up the communication and kept encouraging each other. Just staying strong.
"We knew we could do it."
Klingler, a sophomore mid, ended an intense OT period of 13-plus minutes with a goal as splendid as it was sudden.
Selinsgrove's Nora Aucker fed the ball to Klingler from right of the circle. Klingler had Eagles back Savannah Copson on her left hip as she dribbled to the right post. Geneka Mahan circled in behind Copson but backed into position for a potential rebound when she saw Klingler had possession.
"I was thinking, 'This is it. I need to get the ball in there,'" said Klingler. "(Copson) was a worry. I needed to get around her as fast as possible and make sure I had my stick on the ball so she couldn't jab it away.
"I knew Geneka was there; if the shot didn't go into the goal she was going to be right there to get it. Luckily, it went in. It was a hard shot to make."
Klingler slammed the ball off the dribble through Colleen Troutman's pads into the left corner of the cage, setting off a very familiar celebration.
"It feels amazing," Klingler said. "It was such a great game. I have to give it to Line Mountain: They played tough, really hard, and we did the same."
Selinsgrove (15-4-2) plays the District 1 runner-up, either Villa Maria -- which beat the Seals in last year's state semifinals and then lost to Wyoming Seminary in the title game -- or Upper Perkiomen, in a Class AA first-round state game 5 p.m. Tuesday at Bucknell. The District 1 final, pushed back by this week's storm, is Saturday.
The Eagles (16-5) played in a district final for the first time in 12 years. They have a date with District 11 runner-up Moravian 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Whitehall's Zephyr Sports Complex. The winner earns a berth in the Class AA field.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of," said Eagles third-year coach Jill Martz-Yisrael. "We fought to get here and it was a competitive game."
It was just the third one-goal game in the Seals' string of district title game wins. Their average margin of victory in the other seven was three goals.
Line Mountain's first (and only) sustained attack in the first half produced a penalty stroke. Sarah Lahr dribbled across the circle and slipped down near the left post as her shot trickled in. The officials ruled a Seal's foot interfered with the shot and awarded the stroke. Poltonavage came off the bench and beat Courtney McCartney with a board-high stroke to the right side.
The Eagles' lead lasted until early in the second half when, on the Seals' ninth corner, Jenna Kapsar ripped a low ball down the middle and MacKenna Mahan deflected it in.
"Anytime you have your stick down and you're ready, you never know," said Mahan. "I knew where her shot was coming and I had my stick down for it."
With about 13 minutes left, the Eagles were awarded a stroke after another scramble in front of the cage. Poltonavage again rifled it right for a 2-1 lead and returned to the bench to a loud ovation and hugs.
"She has nerves of steel, she's a competitor and she's excellent at strokes," Martz-Yisrael said of the junior. "She's just money."
"They come down, get a stroke and put it in and it's like, Whaddya got, girls?" said Keiser. "It's all about them at that point."
About four minutes after Line Mountain went ahead, MacKenna Mahan made a great stop of a pass tracking to the sideline in front of Selinsgrove's bench and drove into the attacking 25. She crossed the ball hard left, past Klingler in the middle of the circle, to Geneka Mahan for the open equalizer at the 8:36 mark.
Both teams had chances in OT, none better than Kapsar's penalty stroke at 7:39. Her game-winner was waved off as the senior double-touched it.
Sarah Lahr's second card forced her out of the game with 4:07 left. The Eagles had to play 7-v-6 until period's end, as well as the first minute of the second 15-minute OT. Klingler kept it from getting that far.
"You can't mark everybody (and) there's a lot more space for the attack to spread around you," said Martz-Yisrael, "so it definitely hurt not having that extra body in there."