By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
HAMBURG -- Senior midfielder Teanna Shutt more than knew how important it was to control the center of the field Saturday. Before the game, the Southern Columbia coaches told the Tigers that if they let Halifax win the ball, the game was over.
That message didn't go unheard. Shutt played solid in the midfield and helped control the pace of the game, as the Halifax Lady Wildcats managed just three total shots.
"I knew from the start I had to get my head on every ball and not let them win (it)," Shutt said. "Because essentially, if they never have the ball, they can't get any farther."
Shutt and the rest of the Southern Columbia defense did their job and, in turn, it helped the offense flourish. The Tigers' defense gave up just one shot from inside the 18-yard box and the Tigers applied ample pressure offensively.
That pressure helped Southern Columbia score twice in the first half before tapping in a third goal in the second to defeat Halifax, 3-1, in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals at Hamburg High School. The Tigers advance to Tuesday's semifinals against Tulpehocken, back at Hamburg High. It will be the Tigers' first semifinal appearance since 2002.
Halifax (21-2) managed just one shot in the second half while both in the first came off free kicks from 20-25 yards out. Both first-half free kicks came from Halifax's top scorers, Krissy Kelley and Kayla Kelley.
Shutt was a pivotal piece of the Tigers' midfield effort, limiting their touches and chances throughout the game.
"She's just phenomenal. She read the field very, very well," Southern Columbia coach Derek Stine said. "Teanna does a great job on the field. I don't know if we've ever had anyone that works as hard for 80 minutes of a game as she does."
After Southern Columbia (21-1-1) was nearly blindsided in Tuesday's first-round game -- trailing Schuylkill Haven 3-0 at the half before a remarkable comeback -- the Tigers made sure they came out fast and aggressive on offense from the get-go Saturday.
It took just nine minutes before Southern found the back of the net. All-state forward Bailey Bzdak took a ball from Aly Stavinski and dribbled to just outside the goal area and fired to the top left corner of the net for the opening goal.
Bzdak then scored again, off a Haley Levan corner kick, with 21:45 to play to go up 2-0. Levan's corner was perfectly placed just a few yards in front of the Halifax goalie and took one bounce before Bzdak used her speed and got right where she had to be to head it to the top center of the goal.
"Corners is one of our weaknesses, I think. We normally don't finish them," Bzdak said. "It happened to bounce right in the right spot for me to just jump up and hit it in. So I just came through and found the ball."
The Tigers added a huge third goal midway through the second half when Mackenzie Clark got a through-ball down just inside the left side of the 18-box. Clark got tangled with a Halifax defender, but still managed to tap it above both she and Halifax goalie Brianna Turner to put the Lady Wildcats down, 3-0.
"What can I say? They know where they want to be and they're working real hard," Stine said. "Bailey and Mackenzie obviously stepped it up, too."
The Tigers dominated offensively, outshooting Halifax, 19-3, and holding an advantage on corners, 9-2.
Southern Columbia lost the shutout with 18:09 to play. Halifax senior Brianna Rowe managed to take a loose ball that Tigers keeper Abbey Herr dropped and hit a slow roller to the far post as Southern Columbia defenders tried unsuccessfully to chase it down.