Last Saturday morning's early trip to Selinsgrove gave Montoursville a 2-0 league win and first place in the division. It also showed the type of impact a defender like Kirsten O'Malley has on a team filled with attackers capable of finishing.
"She's super fast," Montoursville coach Erin Bennett said. "Every game she gets better and makes better decisions. (Saturday), she outdid herself."
And to get a coach like Bennett to say you've outdone yourself means something. Bennett has been around the game a long time and has seen a lot of good players come through Montoursville. But, as a person who watched O'Malley play against Selinsgrove, she really did play at a level above the rest.
The spunky sophomore repeatedly denied Alicia Torruella's efforts to create shots, with most coming on 1-on-1 breakaways toward the goal.
"It's very important just to get a foot out, anything you can do," O'Malley said. "There's some very good attackers out there."
There are, but O'Malley has had no problems stopping them over the years. Take the area's top teams for instance. Montoursville defeated Loyalsock (with Cassaundra Soars), 3-0, last year and stopped Warrior Run, 2-1.
This year, O'Malley has been part of key wins over Lewisburg and Selinsgrove, stopping attackers like Emily Cole and Jenna Fisher.
"We stuck to what we always do," O'Malley said. "It's very important to keep your head up."
LEADS TO MAGIC...
It was a shocking moment for most fans.
Olivia George, in the middle of a Warrior Run-Loyalsock game, was pulled from the goal in favor of Mackenzie Hays. And that's not at all a knock on Hays. I mean who wants to come into a pressure-packed situation like that?.
As strange as that situation must have been for the fans, it was even weirder for those of us lucky enough to be sitting on the same side as the player benches. George, trotting off the field trying to hide the sly smile growing on her face, and Hays, almost winking at George as she jogs by her to the goal.
The scene then took its final turn, giving some of us the sensation we somehow got sucked into an episode of the Twilight Zone, as a new player from Warrior Run's bench jumped up to be subbed in and I franticly checked my roster before recognizing the player as George.
I was stunned.
Either Jen Allen had lost her mind or she knew something nobody else on the pitch did that day, except maybe George herself. The latter proved to hold true as George went on to assist on the team's first goal. Just to throw in some extra sizzle, George then re-entered at goal to stop two shots and help Warrior Run secure the win over Loyalsock.
Hays also stopped a shot on goal in her brief time at net.
"You just have to keep your mind in it," George said. "As good a team we have you just have to keep your head in it, because you might not get that much action at goal."
Allen replied confidently when asked about the substitution, saying, "I thought we needed a spark on offense. I didn't think we were attacking and I wanted somebody to just go in there and attack them. George is a field players first."
1. Warrior Run (9-0, 8-0):?The Defenders have been playing exactly like their name implies, defending league and state titles. The week opened with a convincing 2-0 win over Loyalsock. Olivia George, possibly the area's most well-rounded player, subbed into the field in the second half, assisted on goal and went back into goal to stop two shots and preserve the key win. Warrior Run then made quick work of Shamokin the next day, scoring nine goals and skating to an easy win.
2. Montoursville (10-2):?The Warriors have been on a roll since dropping a 2-0 decision to Danville. They picked up a key 2-0 win over Selinsgrove last weekend, vaulting them into first place of the HAC-I standings. The obvious scorers are present, but the defense has really stepped up with the help of Kirsten O'Malley. The offense surged for a 6-3 win over Lewisburg to open the week.
3. Loyalsock (8-2):?The Lancers recovered from their emotional, 2-0, loss at Warrior Run to score a, 1-0, win over Southern Columbia. Loyalsock's defense looked tough in the game against Warrior Run, but was exceptional against Hughesville to hold a 1-0 lead. The Lancers are still in need of some more offensive consistency.
4. South Williamsport (7-3):?The Mountaineers have continued their impressive run, pushing their record to 7-3 and capping the week with a, 3-0, win over Muncy. Jen Jackson had two goals, while Lizz Cummings punched in the other. South Williamsport squad received goals from Miranda Young and Kelcey Capolla in a 3-2 victory over Bloomsburg last weekend. South Williamsport appears to be peaking at the right time and has all but assured itself of a postseason spot.
5. Hughesville (6-3):?Brittany Snyder has scored six goals in three games for the Spartans, who have gone 2-1 over the scoring stretch. Despite dropping a league contest against Mount Carmel, Hughesville took care of Shamokin and Jersey Shore by a combined, 8-2. The team hosts Warrior Run this weekend in a night contest. A win over Warrior Run would go a long way to securing some confidence for the postseason.
Top field player: Olivia George, Warrior Run: She only played about five minutes of field time in the contest against Loyalsock. But her presence gave Warrior Run a 1-0 lead, which eventually resulted in a 2-0 win over Loyalsock. George is versatile and can impact the game in the field and at the net.
Top keeper: Morgan Bower, South Williamsport: Bower stopped a total of 13 shots in two games to help push South Williamsport's record to a surprising 7-3. Her performances helped South pick up two keys league wins last week. It should also help them qualify for the postseason.
1. Warrior Run (10-0):?The Defenders have continued to play their tough brand of soccer with positive results. One of the area's most consistent teams.
2. Lewisburg (10-1-1): The Green Dragons have continued to push toward the playoffs and another league title. Cho Logan has continued to shine in his efforts to replace the school's all-time leader in wins. And his efforts have the Dragons sitting in the perfect position to qualify early and focus on the league.
3. Montoursville (5-6-1): It isn't always easy to shake off a loss. Especially when that loss came against a league opponent within five minutes of the other's home field. Montoursville was forced to do exactly that after a 3-0 loss to Loyalsock. The Warriors recovered, though, and scored a win over Milton. The boys will be tested tonight at Warrior Run.
4. Loyalsock (5-6-1):?By contrast, the reasonable person would then assume the win over Montoursville propelled Loyalsock to a dominant week. Well, besides weather, Loyalsock did just that to pick up a win over Shikellamy.
T-5. Sullivan County (5-6): The Griffins have been in a spot since losing one of the best field players. They blew a 2-0 lead against Benton, which sent them under .500. The Griffins need something positive and a win over Millville tonight would go a long way.
T-5. Muncy (5-6):?The Indians are stuck in this field of 5-6 teams. Unlike the field, though, Muncy has broke out of the funk at times to claim some big wins. Recently, the Indians beat Meadowbrook Christian, 3-1. Obviously this was a game they should win and they did.
Top field player: Jacob Bair, Montoursville:?Bair scored the final two goals in the Warriors, 3-0, win over Milton. Bair always seems to be there when Montoursville needs a goal.
Top keeper: Parker McDowell, Montoursville: McDowell stopped six shots in the team's win over Milton. The Warriors have been a little shaky on defense and McDowell has been a good stabilizer.
Crossley covers soccer for the Sun-Gazette and he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org