There have been some instances this season when it has taken the Pleasant Valley girls' soccer team a length of time to fully get involved in its respective game.
That scenario unfolded again Wednesday afternoon, as the Lady Bears were blatantly out-played by Pocono Mountain East in the first half. Fortunately for the Bears, they got it together in the second half and managed to hold off the Cardinals for the victory.
Dianna Connor scored two goals, including the go-ahead tally with 17 minutes to go, to help Pleasant Valley to a 3-2 win in Mountain Valley Conference play. The victory keeps the Bears undefeated in conference play and they can sew up the No. 1 seed in the MVC playoffs with a win at Stroudsburg on Friday.
"The first half we were a little lackadaisical," said Pleasant Valley head coach Tim Hinton. "We were almost playing not to lose. I don't know why. I didn't say anything magical at halftime. I just told them that they had to play smarter, not harder.
"It starts with winning balls and in the second half Katie (Forte) pretty much won every single ball in the middle. That makes it easier for our defense and gives us a chance to keep possession."
Despite being severely out-played for the first 20 minutes of the game, Connor got the Bears on the board first at the 19:40 mark. Teammate Aubrey Aldinger made a beautiful pass up field to Connor, who then split two defenders and shot to her left for the goal. Pleasant Valley had not possessed the ball much up until that point, but still found itself up by one midway through the first half.
Pocono Mountain East continued to control play for the remainder of the half and managed to tie the game at one on a goal by Alyssa Simeone. Simeone won a loose ball in front of the Bears' net and booted it in with her left foot.
Hinton took the entire ten minutes of halftime to talk to his girls, as they were outshot 5-2 in the half.
"There are games where we just come out slow," admitted Hinton. "I told them it shouldn't take us a whole half to get warmed up. We can't afford to do that against good teams like (PM East). We can't play for only a part of the game."
Pleasant Valley responded and came out with much more intensity in the second half. It paid off quickly as sophomore Ema Sabovic broke the tie just five minutes in. Maria Cimino hustled to track down an errant shot and attempted to center the ball to Connor. Connor and a defender battled for the ball and had it dribble away to Sabovic, who was in the right place at the right time for the tap-in score.
Still, the Cardinals refused to go away. The Bears' defense failed to clear a ball and had East's Morgan Stettler get off a shot. Pleasant Valley goalie Sarah Elmontacir made the initial save, however the ball rolled to Simeone who put it away for her second goal of the afternoon.
As most good teams do, Pleasant Valley answered immediately. Less than two minutes later Connor scored her second goal of the day off a nice feed from Sabovic. Connor received the pass on the far right and shot back across the field to the left for the eventual game-winner.
"It was real big," Hinton said about Connor's quick score. "I told them after the game that I am not happy that we are giving up goals, but I like how we didn't get down on ourselves. We actually dug in and seemed to work that much harder to get it back."
Pleasant Valley will face Stroudsburg in its last game of the regular season. The winner will be awarded the top seed in the MVC playoffs next week.
"It's going to be a lot like the first one," said Hinton, whose team won the first meeting 3-2 in overtime. "It could go either way. (Stroudsburg) is really good. They don't give up much and are solid defensively. They are solid front to back. It's going to be hard, but we just have to battle and make them work for everything."