BY JAKE OSWALT
Both Forest Hills and Richland advanced in their respective District 6 girls soccer semifinals Thursday night at Herlinger Field to set up interesting rematches on Saturday afternoon for the district championship.
Forest Hills beat Bedford 2-0 in the Class AA semifinal and Richland beat Bishop Guilfoyle 4-0 in the Class A semifinal.
Forest Hills took control of the game very early on its way to a narrow victory over Bedford. Most of the game was played on Bedford’s side of the field. The Rangers put pressure on the Bisons throughout the game. This was due to Bedford’s game plan to keep their midfielders back and help on defense to contain Forest Hills’ high-powered offense.
“In the first half, our goal is to get to halftime and keep the game close,” Bedford head coach Barrett Schrock said. “Then open things up in the second half, that way we weren’t chasing the whole 80 minutes. We executed and played pretty well. We had a couple chances in the second half, but tonight Forest Hills was the better team.”
Forest Hills took the lead on a Casey Gallaher goal in the 19th minute of the first half. Gallaher had control of the ball in the left corner and sent a centering shot to the middle of the field.
The ball went over Bedford’s goalie and hit the inside of the right side of the net for a 1-0 Ranger lead. Bedford just could not flip the field, they were playing on their side of the field most of the night. The Bisons’ only scoring chances came on corner kicks.
“It took me by surprise,” Forest Hills head coach Donna Gallaher said about Bedford’s first half defensive formation. “We got opportunities the first half, they just plugged it up. Every time we tried to get it to our forward or target player, there were eight people around and they didn’t give us too much space.”
Forest Hills (18-0-1) took advantage of a Bedford handball in the box. Gallaher took the shot and put it past Bedford goalie Erin Mueller to go up 2-0 with 17 minutes left in the game.
“It feels great,” Donna Gallaher said about a third consecutive championship matchup with Juniata in the district championship. The Indians won the two previous matchups.
“I know our players are very excited,” she added.
Bedford finished with a 14-5-1 record and was led by Mueller’s six saves.
Forest Hills’ Megan Ross got the shutout.
Richland took control of the game early and never really lost momentum throughout the match thanks in part to senior Nicki Mihalik’s hat trick. The Rams did so by employing a defensive strategy of having three girls on Bishop Guilfoyle leading scorer Alyssa McGhee, who came in with 59 goals on the season.
Richland’s sophomore midfielder Karissa Wellington started the scoring in the 27th minute of the first half. She launched a shot over the goalie and into the right corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Mihalik scored the first of her three goals with only five minutes left in the first half to take a 2-0 lead into the halftime break. Mihalik showcased her speed and athleticism in the second half by outrunning Marauder defenders to score twice within 2:13.
“You can honestly see with that speed, how she can score a goal out of nowhere,” Richland head coach Nathan Gironda said. “If there’s a mistake by a defender and she gets a chance as she’s running, she’s not going to get caught from behind. She is a hard worker, great athlete, and she never quits.”
Guilfoyle’s McGhee finished with only two clean shots on goal, a major key in Richland’s game plan.
“We don’t ever lose to one player,” Gironda said. “If someone’s going to beat us, it’s going to be their second best player. Everyone was aware that there was never a time for McGhee to be standing with one other person. She wasn’t going to be beat us one-on-one.”
Richland is 10-8-1 heading into Saturday’s Class A district final against rival and top-seed Bishop McCort, who has beaten Richland 1-0 twice this season. Richland has won district championships the last four years – the past two in Class A.
Bishop Guilfoyle finished with a school-record 11 wins and won its first playoff game in school history.