Hazleton, Pa. - Sophomore Moussa Diouf (Carteret, Nj.) picked a fine time for his highest scoring effort of the season as the Lion's top scorer picked up his first hat trick of the season in Wednesday's 6-2 victory over Penn State Beaver in the quarterfinal round of the Penn State University Athletic Conference playoffs. Diouf and three other Nittany Lions caught fire over a 30 minute stretch of action midway through the game, tallying all six scores to send the Lions back to the semifinals for the third consecutive season.
Minus the scoring, Wednesday's contest was a statistic stalemate offensively, with a slight edge going to the visitors. Beaver and Hazleton matched one another with 17 shots each, both squads notching 10 shots on target. Beaver would hold an 8-4 advantage in corner kicks over the Nittany Lions but Hazleton was able to cash in on their quality looks while Beaver was frequently left stymied by several stellar saves by Hazleton sophomore netminder Brandon Yocum (Bloomsburg, Pa.).
Moments that Mattered
Diouf strikes for a late pair but Beaver responds to close the half
Both squads went scoreless for nearly 40 minutes but as the half came to a close, the defenses began to give. In the 40th minute, Junior Ben Pasukinis (Benton, Pa.) placed a corner kick attempt deep to the back post, connecting with Diouf who redirected the ball with a fine header to put the Lions on top 1-0. Hazleton would intercept the ball after the ensuing kick off and attack the zone leading to a consequential foul in the 18. Diouf would take the penalty kick and swiftly give the Lions a second score coming just 1:02 after the first tally.
With momentum on their side, Hazleton expected to go into the break with a 2-0 cushion but Beaver would have something to say about that. Following a Hazleton foul, Beaver's John Valiga took the direct kick from outside the 18 on the right side of the field. Valiga struck a perfect ball, sailing the shot over the Hazleton wall and hooking into the top left corner of the net to cut the deficit back to one score at the midway point.
Second half flurry sends Hazleton to the semis
Following the halftime break, Hazleton came out with great energy and parlayed that new found drive into scores. Starting in the 55th minute, senior Steven Principe's (Jim Thorpe, Pa.) efforts would lead to a pair of quick scores. The senior midfielder would first track down a pass from Diouf over the Beaver defense, chipping the ball over the keeper for the score, followed just over three minutes later by an excellent cross to sophomore Trent Demspey (Weatherly, Pa.) who scored on the one-timer, putting Hazleton up 4-1 in emphatic fashion.
The Lions would keep the pressure on as play continued, expanding their lead to as many as five goals. Moussa Diouf tacked on his third score of the game in the 63rd minute, scoring a miraculous goal with his back to the net, followed shortly by a Pasukinis score who broke free for a one on one attempt thanks to a through ball from sophomore Juan Duran (Maynard, Ma.). When it was all said and done, Hazleton had built a healthy cushion in a short period of time, needing only to milk the clock to the final horn to advance.
Hazleton's 6-2 win makes it four straight victories and another trip to the semifinals. Hazleton has outscored their opponents by a margin of 30-7 over that stretch but will need to bring their best if they seek another shot at PSUAC title. The Lions will look to avenge an early season loss and get back to the finals when they travel on Saturday to face Penn State Greater Allegheny. Kick off slated for 1:00 p.m. at McClure Field in White Oak, Pa.