MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – It was getting late. Too late. The score was close. Too close. And Penn State Harrisburg had played well. Too well to let this one slip away.
With the sun setting on a late summer evening, and on Penn State Harrisburg's chances of kicking off the 2013 season with a victory, senior captain Kara Hoy (Camp Hill, Pa. / Camp Hill) pushed up field from her usual defensive position and chipped a beautiful ball into the Delaware Valley box. During an afternoon filled with numerous oh-so-close moments for the Blue & White, the ladies finally got a ball to bounce their way as Hoy's chip one-hopped the outstretched arms of Aggie goalie Julie Burnell. Sophomore forward Fay Ansary (Hummelstown, Pa. / Hershey) used her chest to push the ball into the back of the net, whipping the hometown crowd into a frenzy with just 1:58 left in regulation.
Ansary's score proved to be the game-winner in a match that started off slowly before providing plenty of second half excitement.
Scoring chances were hard to come by in the first period but Penn State Harrisburg took advantage of its first of the second half when junior Tatiana Marroquin gathered a loose, deflected ball in front following a Kelsey Crum (Biglerville, Pa. / Bendersville) corner kick and put her shot past Burnell to give the Lions a 1-0 advantage in the game's 46th minute. The goal was the first of Marroquin's career and the first of the team's 2013 campaign.
The Blue & White defense held the Aggies for nearly the next 20 minutes. When Keri Helmrich broke away from her defenders near midfield, however, the Delaware Valley freshmen raced towards the home team's net and put her shot past a diving Mackenzie Gates (Harrisburg, Pa. / Central Dauphin) to tie the score at 1-1 in the 65th minute. It was the lone mistake made by the Penn State Harrisburg captain on a night when she was solid in goal and made four crucial saves.
Despite the Aggies' aggressive second half play, the Lions had their chances, including a physics-defying shot by junior Hannah Jorich (Middletown, Pa. / Middletown Area) with less than five minutes remaining that clanked the inside edge of the right post and somehow failed to find the net.
Just a little over two minutes later, Hoy and Ansary hooked up, guaranteeing Penn State Harrisburg a memorable season-opening victory.
If there was an unsung hero in Friday's match it was Penn State Harrisburg's do-it-all sophomore Rachel Shetler (Pequea, Pa. / Penn Manor). The team captain was in the midst of the action all night long, firing off a game-high eight shots including two that found the post and a beautiful floater over Burnell's head that was denied by the crossbar. An inch or two here and there is all that kept Shetler from breaking the game wide open.
Happy to start the year 1-0, the Lions get a few days off over the Labor Day weekend before their next outing. Penn State Harrisburg hosts Valley Forge Christian in its next matchup on Thursday evening, Sep. 5.