MIFFLINBURG — With all of the possession and time in the attacking end Selinsgrove had Tuesday, it seemed only a matter of time before goals came in bunches.

Mifflinburg goalie Jaden Keister and the defenders in front of her didn't see it that way.

The host Wildcats were forced to play more defense than they would prefer but they did it exceptionally well, limiting the division rival Seals to a pair of rebound goals in the season's first showdown of the reigning district champions.

"I think we had a lot of intensity," said Keister, a junior who made 11 saves. "We knew we had to come out strong this game. That's exactly what we did."

Selinsgrove scored 8 1/2 minutes into the Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I game, but then not again over a span of 50 minutes that included nine of their 12 penalty corners. Olivia Lybarger's insurance goal with 10:31 to play didn't do as much to change the outcome as it did to ease the Seals' frustration. 

"I was really happy with the amount of possession and how much we controlled the game on this (grass) surface," said Selinsgrove coach Roz Erb. "It was more than I thought we would, but I think it speaks to the strength of (Mifflinburg's) midfield that, even though we were winning balls, their midfielders worked their tails off to recover and gave us pressure.

"It was good second-effort that really slowed us down and stopped us from scoring more. Goalie's pretty good, too."

The Wildcats (2-1 overall, 1-1 HAC-I) set the tone from Selinsgrove's first corner opportunity a bit more than five minutes in. Jessica Alba's first insert was slowed by the grass, and after Maddie Bucher darted into the circle to collect the ball, Mifflinburg senior Mara Shuck poked it away.

Shortly after, the Wildcats made one of their few slips on the defensive end — a misplay on the clear in the circle that led to a corner. Alba's insert was sent hard out of the circle past its target, but Rita Auker recovered and sent a shot at the cage. Keister made the initial stop but Seals senior Emily Swineford was there to push home the rebound for her 53rd career goal. The tally also upped Swineford's career points total to 151.

Swineford soon bolted into the circle again and centered a pass to Alba for a lift that clipped the crossbar on its way out of bounds, prompting a Wildcats timeout. When play resumed Keister was menace, kicking away one shot after another while amassing eight first-half saves.

"I knew with my defense in front me that I was going to be fine," she said. "If I had a couple shots on goal, I was more than confident that I could stop them and my defense could take them out of the circle. That's what they did most of the time.

"I think we did amazing on defense."

Keister walled off Swineford at the right post twice in one sequence, then turned away a shot and the point-blank rebound shot. Erica Hauger and Brooke Catherman also made plays late in the half to keep it at 1-0.

"Our defense, they've been working really hard — and it shows. They really did do a nice job," said Wildcats coach Shelly Orren. "Jaden had some really nice saves in that (first half). I think it's a confidence-booster. She has made leaps and bounds (in her development since eighth grade)."

Selinsgrove (3-0, 2-0) earned a series of six corners in a 13-minute span of the second half. Mifflinburg's Brook Karchner flashed into the circle to intercept two of the inserts. On the last corner of the sequence, Alba's shot off a return pass from Olivia Reichley was stopped by Keister but the rebound gave Lybarger an open, point-blank look for a 2-0 lead.

"This (win) was critical — and I've been talking about it for a few days with (the Seals) — because this puts us in the driver's seat for the league title," said Erb. "It's not a huge league anymore, and you don't have to win many games, but, man, you make one mistake and you put yourself in a bad position. They knew this was important."


First half

S-Emily Swineford (Rita Auker), 21:37.

Second half

S-Olivia Lybarger, 10:31.

Shots: S 16-2. Corners: S 12-1. Cards: None. Saves: Selinsgrove 1 (Mazzie Teats); Mifflinburg 11 (Jaden Keister).

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