It wasn't the best game it has played all season, but the Pleasant Valley girls' soccer team still found a way to get the job done.
As the rain picked up Wednesday night in Brodheadsville, so did the competition on the field. Fourth-seeded East Stroudsburg South, with an overall record below .500, pushed top-seeded Pleasant Valley for the entire 80 minutes of play and nearly staged the second upset of the night.
Fortunately the Bears had built up a 2-0 lead before the Cavs scored with just under four minutes to go. The victory sends Pleasant Valley to the Mountain Valley Conference championship on Friday night.
"It was back-and-forth throughout," said Pleasant Valley head coach Tim Hinton. "At times we were connecting and getting good chances. And then at times we looked disconnected. But I am happy to come out with the win."
Pleasant Valley didn't have to wait long to get on the board, as its leading scorer in Dianna Connor got the locals on the board early. Connor was taken down in the box with a hip-check while attempting to track down a loose ball and was awarded a penalty kick. Connor played it smoothly and shot to the right of South goalkeeper Mariette Martinez for her 27th goal of the season.
Although it quickly feel behind to the conference's lone undefeated team, East Stroudsburg South (7-8-1, 6-7) did not back down. At times the Cavs looked to be the aggressors and ended up out-shooting the Bears in the first half (4-3).
The Cavaliers continued their strong play into the second. At one point, roughly midway through the half, they reeled off three shots in two minutes and were seemingly trying everything to tie up the game.
Despite their efforts, the Cavs would fall behind by two when Pleasant Valley's Lauren Heckelman scored on a direct kick just outside the box. Teammate Emily Schlogl was tripped trying to go for the ball and set up Heckelman's goal at the 14:36 mark. The goal would loom large.
"To add another one was big there," Hinton said. "It lets us relax a little bit and kind of swung the momentum back to us. Even after that I thought we played a little better until we just started kicking the ball around. But that goal was big."
Not only did the goal give the Bears a two-goal cushion, it turned out to be the difference in the game as the Cavs scored with just under four minutes to go. Pleasant Valley goalie Sarah Elmontacir tried to make a save, but had the ball squirt through her legs. The ball sat on the goal line for a second before South's Casey Willey came sprinting in for the tap-in goal.
East Stroudsburg South kept pushing and nearly tied the game with a minute and a half to go. Elmontacir was caught out of position after trying to make a save and left the net wide open. Thankfully, teammate Sam Boyd got her body between the goal and the shot and deflected the ball wide off her hip.
Pleasant Valley (15-3-1, 13-0) advances to play third-seeded Pocono Mountain East on Friday at Stroudsburg at 7 p.m. The Cardinals (10-7-1, 7-6) upset Stroudsburg (15-4, 10-3) in the other semi-final, 2-0. The Bears defeated the Cardinals 2-1 and 3-2 during the regular season and will be in search of their eighth MVC title since 2003.
"It's big," said Hinton on the up-coming game. "We want to keep that tradition going. I learned a lot under those coaches who won all of those (titles), so I just want to make them proud of our program and continue what they have worked so hard to create."