By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
SUNBURY -- Mikayla Neff had just a goalkeeper between her foot and a Shikellamy overtime victory.
Neff made herself space and drilled a shot low to the right side of the net and past a diving Lydia Hunter in goal for East Juniata.
The calm stroke by Neff at 6:53 of the extra period gave the Braves a hard-fought 4-3 victory over East Juniata on Saturday.
On the play, the ball was kicked up the field and deflected by an East Juniata defender as Neff approached. The ball ricocheted to Neff, who converted to send the Braves home with a win over a team which was coming off a 22-win season.
"I just knew that if I played smart and played (the ball) right, then I'd be fine," Neff said. "We were working hard the whole game and I wanted to (win it) for my team."
Her team showed their appreciation by mobbing the sophomore midfielder within seconds of her game-winner.
"(The win) is a great way to start," Shikellamy head coach Angela Sivillo said. "At the end of the overtime, we had eight freshmen on the field. (The season's) looking up from here."
The Braves (1-0) had a balanced offensive attack against the speedy Tigers (0-1). Neff, Haley Bingaman and Sidney Graybill each found the back of the net for the Braves.
"Everybody contributed," Sivillo said. "I couldn't ask for more."
Before the overtime period, the game appeared as though it would slip away from the Braves and East Juniata would find a way to pull out a comeback victory.
Showing a short memory, the Braves put any goals behind them and continued to press offensively to keep East Juniata from finding open space to run.
The Braves established momentum in the second half off Bingaman's foot.
After a tripping call in the box went against East Juniata in a 2-all game in the 51st minute, Bingaman counted out her steps for a penalty kick try.
Striking the ball, Bingaman found an opening on the right side of the net as Hunter dove left in anticipation. The goal put the Braves on top 3-2 with 29:43 left on the clock for an upset win.
Lining up for the kick, Bingaman perhaps realized the magnitude of the next 30 seconds on a tight game.
"(I) couldn't breathe," she said. "I didn't know which way (the goalie) was going. I just knew I needed to finish the (penalty kick) for my team."
Bingaman -- one of the senior leaders on a young Braves team -- scored the first Shikellamy goal of the game on a free kick in the first half.
With a touch from Cheyenne Tumulo, Bingaman angled a ball through the defense and into the low right corner of the goal.
Among the youth movement for the Braves is goalkeeper Kaitlyn Harmon. The freshman made key saves to keep the Braves in the lead or keep the game tied.
"She's not afraid to go for the ball," Sivillo said. "She has good judgment and she really stepped it up."
East Juniata got on the board midway through the first half on a ball that was deflected and saved multiple times before Amber Knouse knocked it in for a 1-0 Tigers' lead. Bingaman answered six minutes later to tie the game before Knouse showed her wheels.
Knouse outran the defense and beat Harmon low to put East Juniata back on top at the 10:35 mark in the first.
Shikellamy answered in the final 90 seconds of the half with Graybill knocking the ball into an open net after it was deflected past Hunter.