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TIM WEIGHT/For The Express
Bald Eagle Area’s Adrienne Hacker scores a goal on a penalty kick in Thursday’s game against Forest Hills.

WINGATE– Two Laurel Highlands teams met for a critical conference matchup on Thursday evening for what turned out to come down to the wire. Playing from behind in both the first and second halves, Bald Eagle Area (5-4-1) fought off a Forest Hills (2-2-1) lead with incredible stops on defense and a miraculous hat trick from Adrienne Hacker. In the end, though, the two teams tied, 3-3, in double OT after a back-and-forth playoff-like game.

The Eagles didn’t get much of the start it was looking for. After its tough, one-point road win against Somerset Tuesday, the Eagles’ intensity was flat to start. Following a second Forest Hills goal, though, that all changed. Bald Eagle goalkeeper Makayla Spicer made five saves in the second half and overtime–including nine for the game–to keep the Rangers from notching a fourth goal. Hacker’s three goals, including two that came on penalty kicks, were enough to keep the Eagles going in the game offensively, and more importantly, in-tune defensively.

“We did not come out with our best stuff. We talked about it halftime, they were angry at themselves and they motivated themselves and said, ‘this is not how we play soccer,’” Bald Eagle Area coach Jared Moore said after the game. “They reached in and found another gear and it was really a sight. I thought we were going to get it there at the end…100 minutes I was really impressed.”

“Normally we say ties aren’t great but we’ll take one today, they earned it…that was a great evenly matched game.”

The game wouldn’t have been as close had Hacker not stepped up, but Bald Eagle Area’s defense played phenomenal in the second half but particularly down the stretch when Forest Hills threatened. The Eagles backline–led by Addison Burns–teamed up to make crucial last-minute stops before Forest Hills could get a shot off.

TIM WEIGHT/For The Express
Bald Eagle Area’s Khloe Cunningham attempts to shoot on goal in Thursday’s game against Forest Hills.

Offensively, Hacker couldn’t have timed her scoring any better. The junior netted a first-half goal and scored two go-ahead goals in the second half. Two of her three scores came off penalty kicks.

“Addison Burns, what a great defensive game…she just came out of nowhere,” coach Moore said. “She saved two breakways so I was so impressed, she really stepped up to the plate.”

“Adrienne Hacker had a huge game…she was just outstanding,” coach Moore added.

Bald Eagle generated some action early on in the game but Forest Hills took control beginning with its defensive presence. The Rangers’ goalkeeper only had two saves in the half but its defenders stole multiple balls away from the Eagles’ forwards as they tried to attack. That defensive prowess translated to the forwards as the Rangers built some strength in the open field in its attacking one-third.

Just under halfway into the half Nina Martyak scored for Forest Hills to put it ahead 1-0. As the half dwindled down, Forest Hills got back into the net on a nifty boot by Samantha Papcunik to put Forest Hills ahead 2-0.

TIM WEIGHT/For The Express
Bald Eagle Area teammates celebrate after Adrienne Hacker scores a goal on a penalty kick in Thursday’s game against Forest Hills.

While Hacker’s goal would come with just under 30 seconds remaining in the half, giving the Eagles’ a boost heading into halftime, it wasn’t happy with the performance it displayed in the first 40 minutes.

The Eagles jumped out the gate with a score in the first four minutes of the half when Sybil Thompson found Hacker on a nifty pass that tied the game at 2-2. While the Rangers scored a few minutes later to go ahead 3-2, Hacker scored her third goal on a second PK kick that tied the game and gave Bald Eagle the tie and boost it needed. A big part of Bald Eagle’s tale of two halves was its energy and ball control.

“A big difference between the first half and the second half was ball control. We talked about it big time,” coach Moore said. “I told them how many times we passed to the other team and I told them to correct that. And it really changed the game.”

Bald Eagle took Hacker’s third goal and a tie game to the end of regulation where the Eagles had some momentum. In the first overtime, both teams generated just three shots and in the second OT just two shots between the two. Both teams truly went at each other and fought defensively to close the game and keep the score knotted.

Bald Eagle Area showed its truest form of potential in the second half against an offensive-powered team that is capable of putting the ball in the net. Valuable defensive efforts and the ability for Hacker-or any other player to step up–will be valuable for Bald Eagle moving forward.

With eight games left in the regular season, the time of the year to peak is now for the Eagles, and Thursday’s game was a sign it’s headed in the right direction.

“I think they’re clicking right now. I’m really excited to see what the second half of the season is going to look like,” coach Moore concluded. “I’m excited to get some of these Mountain League teams.”

Bald Eagle Area 3, Forest Hills 3 (2OT)

Scoring: FH- Nina Martyak (UA),19:16; FH- Samantha Papcunik (UA), 37:48, BEA- Adrienne Hacker (PK), 39:33; BEA- Adrienne Hacker (Sybil Thompson), 44:34; FH- Nina Martyak (UA), 46:57; BEA- Adrienne Hacker (PK), 67:29.

Shots: BEA 16 FH 12. Corners: FH 3 BEA 2. Saves: BEA 9 (Makayla Spicer) FH 13 (Alyssa Walker).

Records: BEA 5-4-1 overall (4-4-1 LHAC)

Next game: Bald Eagle at Huntingdon Tuesday.

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