---- — By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- Eliza Newlin wielded the only stick between East Juniata and a potential game-winning breakaway Monday.
As she had done throughout regulation, Lewisburg's senior back stopped the Tigers attack cold. And within a minute's time, the Green Dragons earned a penalty corner that Haley Stanko cashed in for a 2-1 overtime win in a terrific nonleague game.
Lewisburg's ability to choke off East Juniata's attack consistently made all the difference in a matchup of contenders in their respective leagues and District 4 Class AA.
"We made it our goal this past week, coming out of (a loss at) Selinsgrove, to really work on marking in the back and looking at the open players so we can shut them down when they're coming down our sides," said Green Dragons junior mid Claire Lesher. "I think we really did a good job of that (Monday), and we're definitely improving."
The Dragons (3-2-1) had a dominant statistical edge in both shots (11-5) and corners (12-3), but that wasn't due to a lack of talent or skill on the Tigers' side. The play between the 25s was fairly even, but Lewisburg did a far better job getting the ball to the circle and creating chances in its attacking zone.
"They did a good job shutting us down, but we weren't connecting our passes very well. So we were kind of making it hard on ourselves," said Tigers senior Steph Dressler, a Tri-Valley League all-star mid and the Valley's assist leader last season. "It is frustrating that we didn't get it down there more because we could have owned that game. We just weren't connecting passes like we should have been."
Lewisburg's first corner opportunity came less than four minutes in. Lesher took a pass on the right side of the circle from Sam Hunt and whistled a shot that clipped the pad of Tigers keeper Lydia Strawser on its way into the cage.
"I got a really good pass, and I just tried to hit it as hard as I could," Lesher said.
Lesher continued to unleash big hits from the right wing into the circle, pressuring the East Juniata defense. With 11:40 to play, Lewisburg's Maggie Harrison blasted a shot that Strawser saved head-high with the pad on her left hand before kicking it clear with her left leg.
"As soon as we get it up to our end of attack," Lesher said, "we're really good at seeing the open spots and getting chances."
East Juniata's only corners came within the first two minutes of each half. Caitlin Hoover's insert early in the second half was handled by Dressler at the top of the circle, but her cross to Lydia Koser on the right side was too hot.
However, with less than nine minutes to play, an East Juniata rush along the right side saw Koser cross a bounding ball to Dressler. She settled it right of center and sent a low rocket into the left corner to tie the score.
The Tigers (3-2) had a chance for a similar connection in the 7-v-7 overtime when Cassie Sumfest's insert got through and across the 25. Dressler sprinted ahead of the pack and would have been on the receiving end of the pass for a breakaway had Newlin not stoned it.
"You don't want a one-v-one with the goalie because, typically, that means a goal," said Newlin, a HAC all-star back. "I heard somebody say that (Dressler) was open behind me, and I knew (the ball) was coming and no one was on it. So I was just trusting my teammates to back me up and I just stepped up."