Bloomsburg University (BU) sophomore midfielder Lauren Hoelke directed a high, floating kick that was just out of the reach of ESU’s leaping Mauri Jackson and headed in by BU senior midfielder Erin Bielski to give the top-seeded Huskies their first PSAC championship in 16 years at Steph Pettit Stadium last Sunday afternoon.
The winning goal came in the eighth minute of overtime after BU and ESU battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation.
This was always going to be a defensive battle. Both the Warriors and the Huskies are well-coached and are not going to give up too many scoring chances.
Predictably, the championship game remained scoreless for most of regulation.
But lightning would strike in the 83rd minute when the Warriors finally got behind Bloomsburg’s back line for a scoring opportunity.
ESU junior forward Amy Strauser’s kick hit the right goalpost, but the ball bounced next to ESU senior forward Alex Pickett who was standing right in front of the net.
Pickett then kicked the ball to the left and past BU redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Jenna Hawkins for the first score of the game.
As the Warriors celebrated their first goal, it seemed that ESU was destined to win their fifth straight conference championship.
But it was not to be.
Just one minute later, the Huskies answered right back off of a corner kick.
Hoelke’s corner kick was a low floater that was kicked up into the air by another BU player, and Huskie junior Jessica Milligan headed it past ESU freshman goalkeeper Mauri Jackson for the equalizer.
The game remained tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and went into overtime.
Eight minutes into overtime, the Huskies were awarded another corner kick.
The Warriors tried to clear Hoelke’s corner kick, but the ball came right back to her.
This time, Hoelke fired a high floating kick that was just out of reach of the leaping Jackson and headed in for the winning goal.
ESU’s drive for five came to a stunning end at Bloomsburg–much to the delight of the Huskie Faithful.
ESU Head Coach Rob Berkowitz said, “It was a corner kick scramble.”
“They’re really good on set pieces,” Berkowitz said. “We played hard. Certainly can’t fault the effort.”
“Tough ball when you get challenged like that. Not her [Jackson’s] fault at all,” stated Berkowitz.
“Just a good serve ball in and a good challenge, and that was the difference,” Berkowitz said.
Bloomsburg Head Coach Matt Haney was complimentary after the game.
“It was a hard-fought game on both sides,” Haney said. “I give all credit to East Stroudsburg and tip my cap to them.”
“They are four-time defending champions and a tough squad to break down,” stated Haney.
“They work very hard for Coach Berkowitz, and I have nothing but admiration for him and his program,” Haney said.
Of course, Haney was proud of his own team.
“We battled through a lot of injuries, and we kept stepping up for each other,” stated Haney.
“We really became a team concept first, and that is what really carried us through,” Haney said. “Even after we gave up that first goal today, there was still a firm belief on the bench and out on the pitch that we would get that goal back.”
Hoelke recorded two assists in the game and was named Tournament MVP.
“Lauren Hoelke is a hard-working kid,” stated Haney.
“Comes off the bench for us consistently. Understands her role and embraces it. Knows that she is still going to get a lot of minutes for us even though she is not a starter,” Haney said.
“That is kind of what leads us to have a strong team concept, and she [Hoelke] can serve a quality ball from all over the pitch, especially on corner kicks,” stated Haney.
ESU’s drive for five may be over, but the team has enjoyed unprecedented success over these past five seasons.
“In a 17-team conference, just to make five finals and win four of them is incredible,” Berkowitz said.
“Obviously, we would have liked to get five in a row, but it just wasn’t the day for that,” stated Berkowitz.
Berkowitz remained proud of his team.
“The team battled all season,” Berkowitz said.
“We had some ups and downs, but they did everything they could,” stated Berkowitz. “Just to get to this point again was a huge accomplishment.”
On Monday, it was announced that the Warriors were selected to play in the national tournament.
“I feel like we could win a regional championship if we do get in,” Berkowitz said.
ESU (14-6-1, 11-4-1) will play Millersville (14-5, 12-4) in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament at Bloomsburg tomorrow in a rematch of the PSAC Semifinal from a week ago.
The Warriors beat the Marauders 3-2 in double-overtime last Friday afternoon.
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