The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 25, 2013

Jon Gerardi's high school soccer column: Southern Columbia avenges losses


Daily Item

---- — There's little doubt that Southern Columbia's fans, coaches and players knew last week was going to be one heck of a tough one for the girls' team.

Just a glance at the schedule would indicate why: Monday: vs. Warrior Run; Wednesday: at Loyalsock; Saturday: vs. Central Columbia.

Three games in a six-day span against the only three teams that handed the Tigers losses last season. Loyalsock topped Southern three times -- the third in last year's District 4 semifinals -- Warrior Run swept them in the regular season, and Central Columbia gave them a non-league loss.

No questioning that those six losses stung the Tigers last year and, when last week finally rolled around, they more than wanted to avenge them by putting up some statement wins.

Southern Columbia did just that, going 2-0-1 in the three contests.

"Obviously that was their goal from last year. They're kind of making a statement at this point and time that they are a team to be played," Southern Columbia coach Derek Stine said.

As Meat Loaf (the singer, not the food) once sang: "Two out of three ain't bad."

The week started against Warrior Run, a tough game that went through two overtime periods before Bailey Bzdak came up with a huge goal with an Aly Stavinski assist to beat the Defenders, 1-0.

"It was just a lot of excitement. After the goal was scored, everyone stormed out (onto the field)," Bzdak said. "It was just a lot of excitement, a lot of good emotion (and) a lot of positive energy."

And while Southern Columbia surely wanted to defeat Loyalsock -- a team they haven't beaten since 2010 -- the Tigers settled for a tie after two more tough overtime periods.

"It definitely is good not to have a loss because you can still be undefeated, but it would've been nice to beat them," Bzdak said.

The Lancers jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Mackenzie Clark had a game-tying goal with 11:40 to play and gave the Tigers a shot in OT.

Bzdak and Clark combine for nearly half of Southern Columbia's 31 goals this year, but the Tigers can spread the ball around to a variety of players.

"It's real nice because it takes a little bit of the pressure of those two as well," Stine said.

While some teams would like to avoid having to play back-to-back double-overtime games, the Tigers shook off the consecutive 100-minute contests like a cobweb.

"We didn't think about it that much, about how tired we might've been," Bzdak said. "We had a light practice and watched film from last year (on Central Columbia) to kind of get mentally ready since we just had an exhausting game (against Loyalsock)."

The team came out anything but flat on Saturday, shutting out Central Columbia, 3-0.

Clark opened the scoring just 3 1/2 minutes in before Haley Levan scored just over halfway into the first half to help Southern cruise to the redeeming win.

"We were just taking it one game at a time. Thinking back to last year and thinking about how they were the only three we lost to and playing them all in a row, we were definitely expecting a challenge, but we were taking it one and at a time and making sure we weren't looking too far ahead and making sure we had our attention at the game ahead," Bzdak said.

One-at-a-time is the approach Southern's taken all year en route to an 8-0-1 start, and it's safe to say that's the approach they'll use as the season rolls on.

n Jon Gerardi covers high school soccer for The Daily Item. Email comments to jgerardi@dailyitem.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JonGerardi.