By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- Nora Aucker boomed several long balls into the circle during the second half Tuesday, part of the reason Selinsgrove could keep Lewisburg on its heels for so long.
Turns out, that was also a pretty good strategy for a corner play.
Aucker blasted the game-winning goal immediately after receiving the insert on Selinsgrove's third corner of overtime, bringing a terrific HAC-I field hockey game to an emphatic end.
"On the one before the winning corner, I had fumbled the ball when I received it. I just told myself that I wasn't going to do that again," said Aucker, a junior mid. "And I have been working on a far-post shot since August, so it was just receive, set the ball, shot. That's all that was going through my head."
With her resounding goal, Aucker snapped the red-hot Green Dragons' nine-game winning streak and put the Seals on a clearer path to reclaiming the HAC-I title they've won every year but last.
Selinsgrove (11-1, 9-0 HAC-I), winner of eight in a row, has only one game remaining against a team with a winning HAC-I record. Lewisburg dropped to 10-3-1, 6-3.
"We were on a roll. We're still going to be on a roll," said Lewisburg coach Emily O'Connor. "This was a bittersweet loss, but it was a battle won in terms of overcoming that obstacle of 'can you play with (the Seals)?'"
The Dragons did more than just play with the Seals early in Tuesday's game; they dominated a significant stretch of first-half play. The cat-like reflexes of Eliza Newlin and Sam Hunt in the back, coupled with the speed of Claire Lesher and Maggie Harrison in the midfield, took much of the danger out of Selinsgrove's long game.
"Start of the game I think they had us," said Seals coach Cathy Keiser, "and in the second half I think we came out with a better game plan and ready to play. I think the girls figured out the (choppy grass) field a little better, but they knew they had 30 minutes to adjust and it was now or never."
Cassie Sumfest broke the scoreless tie with five minutes left in the first half, the standout freshman's 13th goal in the last seven games. However, the lead couldn't have been more short-lived as Becca Bausinger buried the equalizer 18 seconds later.
"I knew that they have a tendency (after an opponent's goal) ... they get mad, and they come hard," said O'Connor. "They came hard and earned that goal."
"We knew if we didn't answer back as soon as possible," said Aucker, "we were going to get ourselves in deeper and deeper."
The Seals were an inch or so from a 2-1 halftime lead when Megan Wetzel's penalty stroke clipped the right post with 1:05 to play.
Selinsgrove's second-half pressure appeared to wear down the Dragons. A late flurry of corners produced several near-misses, including a Taylor Delbaugh defensive save off the line.
"We were not possessing out of the backfield as well as we would have liked the last 10 minutes of the half," said O'Connor. "In terms of (overtime) taking the pressure off, it was good to get out of there and regroup."
Early in OT, Sumfest triggered a corner to Harrison on the upper-left side of the circle. Harrison sent a cross to Lesher, who worked around Aucker for a shot that rattled the outside right flank of the cage.
About six minutes later, Keiser subbed out forwards Bausinger and Emily Klingler for Geneka Mahan and Lexi Horst. On a restart immediately after Horst checked in, she carried the ball down the right side, past Newlin and Harrison, and earned the first of two corners that ended the game.
"Just thinking about who was going to play 7v7 was about who was playing well (Tuesday)," said Keiser of her confidence to sub for Klingler, The Daily Item Preseason Player of the Year. "I really don't know that we have a top seven; I think we have a top eight or nine that could be in there."
"Credit to Lewisburg -- they dominated us first half. They did a very, very good job," said Aucker.
"I think our strategy in the second half was we needed to be aggressor instead of the defender. At the end of the second half, I felt we were the ones dominating and, going into 7v7, we had to keep that momentum going."