Defense was the storyline early in Thursday night’s girls soccer Class 3A-District 4 championship clash between host P.K. Yonge and Keystone Heights.
Especially at the net.
The visiting Indians kept the Blue Wave from scoring in the first half, but P.K. Yonge (12-4-1) exploded in the second half for a 6-1 win to capture its fourth straight district title, all against Keystone Heights.
“It feels awesome,” said P.K. Yonge coach Rebecca Schackow. “What a great night, blue (crowd) smoke, all the fans. I hoped for it for the girls because I think we have great soccer in our community and to be the district champion is important. It means a lot for these girls and for this community. It’s something they should really be proud of.”
Keystone Heights (19-5) had lost to P.K. Yonge by a combined 18-0 in three straight district title game appearances, but this time they stayed close thanks to the play of goalkeeper Aspen Krohn.
“Keystone’s keeper, outstanding, I told her,” Schackow said. “I mean, what a game, player of the game for their team for sure. The saves she made, there was a lot of them, and they were great. She was awesome.”
P.K. Yonge attempted over 20 shots in the first half, but Krohn (20 total saves) kept her team in the game with diving stops.
“We had a wonderful first half,” said Keystone Heights coach Roger Laurent. “She (Krohn) came out on fire and they were all excited. The defense was behind her. She did great. We couldn’t put it in the back of the net. But I’m very happy with the result, actually, the way we played tonight.”
Things changed quickly in the second half.
After a scoreless first half, P.K. Yonge broke the scoreless tie on a header by Shackow’s daughter, Marleigh, with just over 34 minutes remaining for a 1-0 lead.
“It changed the whole momentum,” Schackow said. “Honestly, I kept telling them, ‘be patient and it will happen.’ We had to figure out to break down this team’s defense and get a goal in the back of the net and it was a great challenge. Keystone presented a huge challenge.”
The junior’s goal was on an assist by sophomore Faith Hardy, who finished with four goals in the second half.
“Faith was sending these beautiful balls all the way to the back post and I pulled her aside and I said, ‘hey, do it a little shorter this time,’ and she did it a little shorter and I knew it was going to be right there and it just went in.”
The scoring became contagious as Hardy raced down the middle of the field past the defense, splitting defenders, until she was one-on-one with Krohn and scored just two minutes later for a 2-0 lead.
“She (Marleigh) definitely started the momentum, built it up, which allowed us to get more points,” Hardy said.
That goal proved to be the game-winner but she added three more goals for some insurance, exceeding the hat trick after Kierstan Shaw scored the Indians’ only goal of the night.
Now the Lady Blue Wave, who are currently the No. 1 seed in Region 1, will turn their attention to a regional title, beginning with Tuesday’s home match in the regional semifinals.
“This group works really hard,” Schackow said. “They train really hard. We talked a lot this season about what champions do and champions train hard every day and they never give up. And I feel like tonight’s game was a perfect example of that.”
Keystone Heights will await word on a possible at-large bid.