EAST STROUDSBURG – Pleasant Valley went into Thursday night's contest trying to win its third straight Mountain Valley Conference Championship. The Bears faced a Stroudsburg team that they had beaten twice this season.
The third-time was not a charm for the Lady Bears. A quick goal and staunch defensive play were enough for the Mounties to upset the defending MVC champions, 1-0.
A physical game from the start resulted in a collision between the Lady Bears' Maggie Patterson and Mountie defensive standout Enya Cunningham just seven minutes into the game. While Patterson was able to return shortly afterwards, Cunningham's bloodied forehead required a trip to the hospital.
Minutes later in the fog that followed, Stroudsburg took advantage of a corner. The ball was placed in front of the goal and bounced out to the waiting foot of senior midfielder Nicole Carangelo. Her shot traveled past Pleasant Valley goalie Sarah Elmonticir. It connected with the goal post and ricocheted into the net for the only goal of the game at the 29:39 mark of the first half.
"Someone hit it back and I was alone at the top of the box," Carangelo said. "I just fired it at the top right hand corner and I said it just had to go in. We needed the early goal."
The goal gave the Mounties an advantage othey would never relinquish.
"We knew that if we could just get a goal early, we would have a chance," Stroudsburg head coach Cindy Svensson said. "The girls stuck to that plan and played our game."
"Coming in I said that corners and free kicks were going to be important," Pleasant Valley coach Tim Hinton said
Pleasant Valley (15-4) immediately went on the offensive and slowly took control of the middle of the field. In the waning minutes of the first half, the Lady Bears came up short on three scoring opportunities including a perfectly placed direct kick by Sarah Fillman that was headed by Amanda Pacella just wide of the goal.
"They were up 1-0 so they didn't have to press too much," Hinton said. "We changed formations and created chances. The few chances we had we couldn't finish."
In the second half, Pleasant Valley forced the issue and kept constant pressure on Stroudsburg goalie Ashley Ward.
It almost seemed inevitable that Pleasant Valley would squeek a goal past at some point as it forced opportunity after opportunity. The Bears dominated and kept Stroudsburg from firing a shot on goal. Even the weather supported that notion as a strong breeze aided the Lady Bears, flowing into the face of Ward.
Despite two lapses in the second half that allowed Patterson to streak past defenders to punch out clean shots, the Mountie defense contested every opportunity in front of the net.
The best scoring chance came with just under ten minutes remaining when Pleasant Valley was awarded a free kick deep in the Stroudsburg zone. Fillman's kick was placed on goal. Patterson and Dana McAllister each missed an opportunity to head the ball in front of Ward. With defenders and Lady Bears in front of the net, a shot by Katie Forte snuck through the melee and was snared by Ward.
"Our defense was like a brick wall back there. Brittany Everett and Ashley Ward had the games of their life," Svensson said.
In the final 4:20, the Lady Bears did not capitalize on two more corners and Stroudsburg (13-4-1) was able to wind out the clock to win the title.
"Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't. Win or lose, I am proud of my girls." Hinton said. "You are going to get knocked down and come across unfortunate times. It will test our character to see how we come back."
Both teams will now wait to find out who they will play in the District 11tournament slated to start Wednesday.