CLARION — The fourth time was certainly a charm for the Redbank Valley Lady Bulldogs, and they picked the right time to do so in the opening round of the District 9 Class 1A soccer playoffs as freshman Rhiannon Laughlin scored the go-ahead goal in the second half for a 2-1 victory.
Clarion had defeated the Lady Bulldogs (11-7-1) in each of their three previous meetings this season by scores of 3-0, 3-0, and 2-1 in OT the last time they played on Oct. 2.
“This was the fourth time we’ve played them so for us we got that three-game monkey off our backs,” said Redbank Valley head coach Michael Dawson. “These girls really wanted it tonight and it filtered all the way down from the seniors to our freshmen.”
Redbank Valley carried the play for much of the first half and were rewarded for that effort with a goal from Haley Minich at the 10:57 mark of the half.
The Lady Bulldogs nearly took a 2-0 lead with 6:15 left in the half, but Clarion goalkeeper Wendy Beveridge stopped a shot from right in front of the net keeping the score 1-0.
The stop gave Clarion a spark as the Lady Cats tied the score 1-1 on a goal from Alexa Hannold with 5:33 to play in the half.
Clarion then controlled the play the rest of the half, but would be unable to score again and the game remained tied at halftime.
“We got a short boost out of that goal we scored,” said Clarion head coach Chris Schonbachler. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough of a boost. They came in tonight and decided to outwork us and that was the bottom line tonight.”
The game remained tied until Laughlin scored the game-winner at the 18:02 mark of the second half as the Lady Bulldogs caught Beveridge out of the net and Laughlin scored into a wide open net for the 2-1 lead.
“Clarion was controlling the play for awhile there so I told the girls at halftime that we had to get the momentum back on our side,” said Dawson. “We got that big goal from our freshman Rhiannon and that really gave us a boost for the rest of the game.”
Clarion tried to rally and tie the game late, but Beveridge took a free kick from about 20 yards out and sent it over the crossbar with 1:10 left in the contest and then another Clarion shot went over the bar as time expired.
“It’s tough beating a team four times and Redbank has a really good team,” said Schonbachler. “They were better than us tonight so congratulations to them.”
Clarion held an 11-10 edge in shots on goal for the game. Beveridge made eight saves for Clarion while Alena Keller made 10 saves for the Lady Bulldogs.
Redbank Valley will move on to play top seed Brockway at a date, time, and site to be determined.
“Brockway is a really good team,” said Dawson. “They have the MVP of their division so we know they are going to be a tough team. We had a scrimmage with them earlier.
“We set a goal to get to the playoffs and get a win there so the next goal is to win a district title. This group would be the first team to do that so we’ll keep working towards that goal.”