Sydney Taracatac

SOMERSET – Just minutes away from heading to penalty kicks against the South Park Eagles for the second straight season, Sydney Taracatac scored with 4:06 remaining in the second overtime period to send the Bedford Bisons to the PIAA quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory.

“I just knew I had to make it, either foot, it just had to go in. It was an amazing feeling,” Taracatac said. “I had faith in my team the whole entire time.”

Taracatac was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of an Eagles turnover just outside the penalty area and hammer home the game-winner from 20 yards out to keep the Bisons’ PIAA championship defense alive.

It was a back-and-forth opening half with both sides trading chances on offense but coming away with nothing on the scoreboard at the halftime break.

Just 4 minutes into the contest, the Eagles came within inches of opening the scoring early from a corner kick. Off the cross from the corner, Grace Albitz was able to get her head on the ball but only a glancing blow that sent the ball directly to the turf below. Once the ball hit the ground, it took an unusual bounce over Bisons’ goalkeeper Lindsay Mowry and off the post before it was cleared away from danger.

Moments after the initial scare from the Eagles, the Bisons responded with a trio of chances of their own but were unable to convert. 

Lizzy Martz unleashed a long-range strike that trickled just wide of Eagles’ goalkeeper Ali Miklos who could only watch it slide past the post.

Following the Martz miss, Katelyn Shaffer was sent in alone on goal with a nice through pass, but Miklos met her at the ball to make the save and keep the Bisons off the board. A minute later it was the Bisons offense once again creating a chance only to be stymied by the Eagles’ defense at the last second.

This time it was Kiley Horne getting free on goal and she managed to slide her shot past a sprawling Miklos before it was cleared away just feet from the goal line by Taylor Glowa to keep the game scoreless.

Surviving the Bisons onslaught helped push some momentum back to the Eagles side and they nearly cashed in midway through the first half. A misplayed free kick by the Bisons defense allowed Haleigh Finale to spring free and get in alone on Mowry, but she mishit her shot pushed it wide of goal.

After the slew of early chances, the game settled into a possession battle, causing issues for both sides when they attempted to push play upfield. As a result, neither offense could find a breakthrough in the first half and the teams entered the halftime break in a scoreless deadlock.

“You just have to keep battling in those games and find a way to win,” Bisons coach Jeff Thomas said. “We never quit, and we stayed hard after the ball”

The possession battle between the two sides carried over to the second half, but the urgency level ratcheted up a notch knowing a single goal might be enough for a victory. Bedford and South Park exchanged chances but ultimately neither side could convert in the second 40 minutes.

Lizzy Martz and Grace Albitz had the two best scoring opportunities for the Bisons and Eagles respectively. Martz went from goal from well out while Albitz took a much more conventional path from in close but both times the goalkeepers were in position to make the save.

No scoring meant the sides headed to overtime where Haleigh Finale came within inches of ending the game just seconds into the first overtime period but her shot sailed a little too high and rang off the crossbar before being cleared away.

As the game kept moving deeper into overtime Taracatac and her teammates began having flashbacks to last year’s semifinal tilt with the Eagles that went to penalty kicks.

“I was getting flashbacks; we were all getting flashbacks. I just feels great.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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