By JAKE OSWALT
HOLLIDAYSBURG – The Forest Hills girls’ soccer team knew it had an uphill battle on Tuesday night.
The Rangers faced a strong opponent in Moon, which previously competed in AAA. Moon’s accurate passing and spacing on offense were on display as they won 3-0 in the first round of state playoff action.
Forest Hills (19-1-1) lost for the first time all year to District 7’s runner-up, which took defending state champion Mars to overtime on Saturday. Forest Hills’ defense held strong early in the first half as Moon’s offense kept the ball in the Rangers’ zone most of the night. Senior goalkeeper Megan Ross (19 saves) made an impressive save on a Moon header in the 10th minute.
Moon finally got on the scoreboard in the 24th minute. After a shot went off Ross’ outstretched hands, Moon’s Emily Rode got the rebound and scored in a wide-open net.
Moon added to its lead four minutes later. Moon had a corner kick, in which a player jumped up and headed a shot off the crossbar. A Forest Hills’ defender panicked on the rebound and got called for a handball in the box. Moon’s senior midfielder, Christine Barthen, put the ball into the right side of the net on the penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.
Just 3:41 before halftime, Moon converted on another corner kick opportunity. Senior Katie Valach tipped in the corner kick off a bounce for a 3-0 halftime lead.
“Moon was a AAA powerhouse last year,” Forest Hills head coach Donna Gallaher said. “With the PIAA bringing in District 3 and more AAA teams, they dropped down to AA. They have seven senior starters that have played together. They’re just a great team. If you take away the penalty kick and the corner kick, I thought we held our own.”
Forest Hills, after winning the school’s first district championship, just could not flip the momentum throughout the night. The Rangers could only muster two shots on goal, while Moon had 10 corner kicks and the Rangers had none.
“In the second half, the girls worked much better together,” Gallaher said. “They were getting more balls. I can’t be more proud of the girls.
“We’ve come a long way,” Gallaher said about the Forest Hills program. “We played for the district championship three years in a row. It’s the hard work of the girls. It’s a great nucleus of girls. They’re not selfish players. They really have turned the program around.”
By JAKE OSWALT
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