Lady Bison ready for next challenge|
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
By Rich Murawski Assistant Sports Editor
BROCKWAY - Their 2013 season has been nothing short of phenomenal.
In fact, the Clearfield girls soccer team's last three campaigns have been outstanding as the Lady Bison have compiled a 50-7-3 record and won three consecutive District 9 Class AA titles, including Monday's 7-2 victory over Bradford at Frank Varischetti Field.
But this year, Clearfield has taken its game to another level.
The Lady Bison cruised through the regular season with a perfect 18-0 mark (the first unbeaten girls soccer season in program history), outscoring their opponents by a combined 97-8 tally. That includes 11 shutouts.
And after Monday's 7-2 win over Bradford, Clearfield pushed its win total to 19 - another program record - and is averaging 5.47 goals per contest, while only surrendering 0.52 per game.
And Bradford was only the second team to put two in the back of the Lady Bison net this year.
The other was Curwensville in a 4-2 Lady Bison win all the way back on Sept. 9.
This entire season was built on a drive the team had to get back to the PIAA playoffs and break through about the only barrier that has eluded this group and the soccer program as a whole - getting the first state playoff win in program history.
Two seasons ago ended in heartbreaking fashion as the Lady Bison lost a 1-0 lead in the final seconds and eventually dropped the game 2-1 to Forest Hills in overtime.
And last year, the Lady Bison were shut out by WPIAL power Mars, 5-0, and that's simply a sour taste Clearfield has no interest in experiencing again this season.
"It's been our main focus," senior midfielder McKenna Aleksivich said. " That game is always on our mind. This whole season, we've been focused on each game, but also trying to look ahead. It was always in the back of our mind."
The Lady Bison were blitzed by a bigger, faster Mars team in the early going in last season's first round PIAA game, falling behind the Lady Planets, 3-0, just 12 minutes into the contest.
Nearly the entire team from that game were juniors and sophomores, and a majority of the returning players took it upon themselves to work in the offseason and be in game shape and ready to go when camp rolled around in late August.
"I made sure I ran a lot," senior defender Kara Thorp said. "I wanted to be in better game shape and be a better defender this season so I could be a solid contributor to the team."
What Thorp started soon became a bit of a team activity.
"A group of girls started coming with me," she said. "The group just got bigger and bigger."
"A lot of girls got together and we would run two or three miles about three times a week," senior defender Katie Powers said. "Some of them did workout videos on the other days. And we would text each other and motivate each other.
"We came in (to camp) expecting everyone to be in shape. The upperclassmen held people accountable."
And so the Lady Bison did come into preseason camp in great shape and ready to work, and the results quickly showed as Clearfield wrecked its first two opponents (Central and Huntingdon) by scores of 9-0 and 5-0.
Those two games were simply an example of what was to come.
"Everybody put in as much work as they could," Aleksivich said. "Everyone knew they needed to come into camp in top shape. We were so motivated. We had big goals this year."
And all those goals have been met, likely exceeded, as Clearfield made it look easy at times rounding into top form as the regular season drew to a close, winning its last five games by a combined score of 28-0.
"Our coaches have a lot to do with that," Thorp said. "They were there to pick us up when we were down, and they also never let our heads get too big."
The community has also rallied around the team, giving them even more to play for.
"You realize how special it is when people you don't even know come up to you and wish you good luck," Powers said. "Everyone wants us to succeed."
And now with the perfect season and the D-9 title firmly in hand, Clearfield is set to move on to the first round of states, looking for redemption in a sense, but basically looking forward to facing the team or at least a representative of the league that put the 2013 season into motion.
Clearfield will get the winner of the WPIAL final between Central Valley and Hopewell in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
Hopewell eliminated Mars in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
"I think everybody knows what's coming," Aleksivich said. "But I think we'll be ready this time."
"The team we play is from the city. They're almost like an all-star team," Powers said.
"We come from a much smaller area. It's a challenge, but a good one. We want to rise to the occasion."
And if Clearfield isn't able to overcome the WPIAL challenge?
"We've accomplished so many things. A lot of our goals have been met," Aleksivich said. "People will always remember this season."
"Even if we lose, my hope is the team still comes back next year with the same excellence that we showed this year." Powers said. "This has been an excellent season. A win in our next game would just be the cherry on top."