CLARKS SUMMIT — Abington Heights senior Hannah Kowalski recognizes the importance of taking an early lead in a high-pressure playoff game.
Kowalski scored the opening goal of the game and also netted the first goal in penalty kicks to help No. 1 seed Abington Heights defeat No. 4 seed Crestwood, 1-1 (3-1 PKs), in a District 2 Class 3A girls soccer semifinal game Tuesday afternoon.
Abington Heights will play No. 2 seed Dallas, a 7-2 winner over Wyoming Valley West, for the district title 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Clarks Summit Elementary.
Kowalski took a well-placed long cross from Emily Mahoney and placed a shot in the corner of the net to give Abington Heights a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
“We definitely wanted to score first,” Kowalski said. “That’s been one of our goals all season. It took a little bit of weight off our backs, but we knew we had to keep pushing because one wasn’t enough. When they scored, we just tried to keep it going as much as we could and I think we did a really good job of fighting back. (Crestwood) played a really good game, as well.”
It looked like Crestwood evened the score in the 17th minute, but a goal from Sam Brumagin was disallowed due to an offsides call.
Abington Heights freshman goalkeeper Abbey Steenback, who finished with four saves, made a critical stop on a shot from Crestwood’s Taylor Tomalinas in the 30th minute to allow her team to maintain the lead.
Another Abington Heights freshman, Riley Mulherin, sent a shot just wide of the goal in the 55th minute. Crestwood goalkeeper Cortney Dushanko, who finished with seven saves, made a key stop on a shot from Mulherin in the 65th minute.
Just over three minutes after Dushanko’s crucial save, Crestwood’s Vanessa Atie provided the equalizer, by driving a hard shot into the top corner of the goal, off an assist from Tomalinas.
Both goalies made fine plays to start the first overtime period.
First, Steenback came far out of the goal to stop Crestwood’s attack before Dushanko caught the ball in front of the goal on Abby Brown’s corner kick. Tomalinas sent a shot wide of the net and Mulherin had a shot slide past the goal, but neither team was able to score in the first, 15-minute overtime period.
Dushanko stopped a shot by Kowalski targeted for the top of the net in the sixth minute of the second overtime and Steenback made a pair of saves to send the game to penalty kicks.
Abington Heights’ Kelly Seechock opened the best-of-5 penalty kick round by sending a shot just over the crossbar.
Steenback made a kick save on a low shot from Atie to keep the shootout scoreless.
Kowalski and Crestwood’s Bella Termini each scored in the second round.
“When they both missed, I knew I had to put it in,” Kowalski said. “I took a deep breath and tried to be as calm as I could and place it where I always do.”
Brown sent a shot into the top corner of the net to give Abington Heights a 2-1 lead.
“We’ve been practicing them every day,” Brown said of PKs. “(Coach) tells us to aim it in the same spot we always do and hope it goes in.”
Crestwood’s Chyanne Cook sent her attempt wide in the third, and Abington Heights’ Paige Morgan scored to start the fourth round and give her team a commanding 3-1 lead.
“It’s life or death, so I know I have to put it in the back of the net,” Morgan said. “I go the same spot and I know I have to get it in for my team.”
Morgan, who anchors the back of the Abington Heights defense and doesn’t have many scoring chances during games, also scored in two penalty shootouts last year.
Steenback remained poised and made a diving save on a shot from Crestwood’s Allie Stover to seal the win for Abington Heights.
“She looked to the right and I knew she was going to the opposite side, so I went with my gut and dove,” Steenback said. “From all the practices we’ve been through, I was just hoping that I’d have the right instincts.
“This means everything to me. My goal was to keep the seniors’ season going.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.