By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG -- About midway through the second half of Tuesday's Heartland-I opener, Jayme Longacre had finally seen enough.
Mifflinburg's second-year coach called out to Cassie Lewis and asked the senior mid to play a defensive style.
More than 30 minutes of game time had elapsed since the Wildcats scored, and Lewisburg's attack -- spurred to life by that goal -- was just as relentless.
Longacre took the bird-in-hand view, deciding it best to protect a one-goal lead than trying to add to it.
"It only takes one to win, so if we could keep them (trailing 1-0) that was the tactic," said Longacre. "That was our strategy at that point."
The Wildcats slowed Lewisburg's attack ever-so-slightly over the final 15 minutes and preserved a 1-0 win in the early season showdown.
The Green Dragons triggered 19 penalty corners (nearly five times as many as Mifflinburg) but couldn't so much as even the score. It was tough pill to swallow after the team tallied 11 goals in its two scrimmages.
"It's was very frustrating, but it's also a lesson," said Lewisburg coach Emily O'Connor. "We haven't really seen that (struggle to score) so far this year. We need to experience adversity to get better. I'm OK with a wake-up experience. It's so early and this team has so much potential."
The Dragons' actual wake-up call occurred a little more than 10 minutes into the game. The feeling-out period ended when Lewis crossed a pass through the circle to Kayla Kline and she directed it toward Jacqueline Beck near the left post. The ball clipped her foot and momentarily gave away possession, but the Wildcats recovered almost immediately.
Beck went head-on with Lewisburg keeper Dentin Kline, who came out to make a save but wasn't able to stop Beck's rebound shot.
"Every team wants to be the first to score; there's just something about the momentum it gives you," said Longacre. "(Beck) had a couple chances there and finally got one in."
O'Connor took an immediate timeout to address Mifflinburg's sudden pressure and presence in the circle, and the Dragons became a different team. They began to generate corners one after another and, within minutes, Maggie Harrison got a ball behind new 'Cats keeper Nicole Mironenko that forced Megan Mensch to make a clutch defensive save.
Lewisburg virtually dominated the ensuing 30-minute span with possession, control and attack.
"When they score the first goal it makes you think, Maybe we're not going as hard as we could," said Harrison. "That kind of turned something on inside of us. It was sort of an eye-opener."
Senior back Eliza Newlin inserted the ball on all 19 corners (each one left of the cage) and burned through the Dragon's corner plays in no time.
Early in the second half, Harrison played an insert back into the circle to Claire Lesher on the right side. Lesher settled the ball and ripped consecutive point-blank shots that Mironenko stopped. Two minutes later, Haley Stanko centered the pass to Maddie Scarr that got Mironenko to dive on the turf, but she was able to sprawl quickly to her right as the shot sailed wide.
"It was definitely nerve-wracking," said Mifflinburg sophomore forward Kayla Kline. "They put a lot of pressure on (Mironenko) and she did a really nice job."
Not long after Lesher whistled a shot just right of the cage and then Cam Buoy was forced to make a defensive save, Longacre switched to a defense-first approach.
"The defense came out extremely tough and my goalie is doing an excellent job. I'm so proud of her," Longacre said of the junior who replaced three-year starter Dani Ard, now at East Stroudsburg. "It was very much a defensive game and they held their ground back there. Some were lucky and some they really pulled through with their talent."
Mironenko was credited with 14 saves in the shutout and drew praise from O'Connor.
"I'm proud of our effort," she said. "I'm disappointed that we did not score because we certainly were there. That has been a problem in the past, and I don't think we have that problem. But we had that problem (Tuesday)."
"The game was (played) on their side and we just couldn't put it away," said Harrison. "We need to remember the feeling; now we have something to prove."