Spartans advance to semis
Stelma’s goal enough for Valley West in state quarterfinal.
SOUTH CENTRE TWP. — One year ago, Valley West field hockey made a statement.
The Spartans cashed in on early scoring chances with three first-half goals in a win against a nationally ranked Selinsgrove team.
Many of the same elements were in play Saturday, including the site, the stakes, and the end result, although it unfolded in a much different way.
Goalkeeper Sydney Rusnock and her defense kept victory within reach for Valley West, which finally got the one and only goal it needed in the second half by Karaline Stelma in a 1-0 win against Bangor in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals at Central Columbia High School.
“It’s very frustrating because you want to kind of make a big statement by scoring in the first half,” Stelma said. “But, we got it done. That’s all that matters.”
District 2 champion Valley West (16-3-1) advances to play in the semifinals Tuesday against District 3 runner-up Palmyra.
Palmyra (18-5-1) won its quarterfinal game, 2-1 in overtime, against Villa Maria. Villa Maria was the reigning state champion after beating Valley West in the final last season.
Meanwhile, District 11 champion Bangor had its season end at 21-2-1 — the all-time best season in program history.
“Even though we haven’t seen them, we heard they were really good,” Stelma said. “So, we were just coming in with the mindset of ‘We had to win this game no matter how good they are.’”
Bangor proved its legitimacy for all 60 minutes Saturday.
The Slaters forced six penalty corners and drilled three shots on goal, a few of which forced Rusnock to make outstanding saves.
“She’s been amazing all the years we’ve had her,” Diane Webster, Valley West’s longtime assistant and goalie coach, said of Rusnock. “She does all kinds of stuff in the offseason and everything to make herself really — in fact, in all the years I’ve been here, she’s one of the best goalies we’ve had come through Valley West.”
Rusnock also received a boost from the defenders in front of her, including centerback Natalie Zasada, as well as Jillian Bonczewski and Olivia Gayoski.
Together, the Valley West defense has recorded four consecutive shutouts from the first game of the District 2 tournament through Saturday.
Once Valley West took its lead at the 17:57 mark, the Spartans defense clamped down allowing Bangor hardly any momentum to find the equalizing goal.
Stelma’s goal came on an assist from Emily Latoski.
“She’s our team captain and leads by example on and off the field,” Spartans head coach Linda Fithian said of Stelma.
Even after the goal, Valley West kept applying pressure, like when Cameryn Forgash pushed a possible insurance goal far-left with 6:30 to play.
Then with 2:45 left, Stelma got a clean shot off a corner, but Bangor goalkeeper Morgan Pysher made an all-out dive to her right, blocking the ball and deflecting it out of bounds.
While she didn’t appear in the box score, Valley West junior Rina Tsioles also played an excellent game on both sides of the ball from the midfield position.
“It feels great just to secure this win for us,” said Stelma, a senior who’s verbally committed to play at Lock Haven. “My teammates helped me throughout the way. If that pass didn’t come in, we wouldn’t have gotten that goal. It’s a big team sport and I really like helping out my team as much as I can.”
SECOND HALF: Karaline Stelma (VW) from Emily Latoski, 17:57.
Shots: VW 11, Ban 3. Corners: VW 10, Ban 6. Saves: VW (Sydney Rusnock) 3, Ban (Morgan Pysher) 10.
Valley West’s Karaline Stelma manages the ball during Saturday’s state quarterfinal game.
Valley West’s Emily Latoski controls the ball.