Lions drop heart breaker in season opener to Valley Forge

Hazleton's Daniel Mendoza battles for possession.
Hazleton's Daniel Mendoza battles for possession.

Hazleton, Pa. - Hazleton held the lead in Wednesday's home matchup with the University of Valley for nearly 35 minutes after taking the lead midway though the first half of action, but the scales shifted in the second half as the Patriots edged out the Lions 2-1 in the season opener.

The Nittany Lions had great energy early on in the contest and in the 17th minute, 2018 USCAA All-American senior Aaron Wrobleski (Mountain Top, Pa.) broke the 0-0 tie with a well placed shot. The senior dribbled from the left corner, hooking the ball across the goal and into the right side netting for his first goal of the season and giving Hazleton the lead. The Lions went on to out-shoot Valley Forge 9-5 in the first half but Valley Forge would tie the match shortly into the second period.

A hard tackle in the Hazleton box led to a penalty kick just seven minutes into the second half and Valley Forge's Mathurin Allawai made good on the free try to knot the score at 1-1. Valley Forge continued to carry momentum over the next 25 minutes of play and the Patriots offensive activity paid off again in the 76th minute. Valley Forge's Jimmy Lee earned a corner kick at the 75:43 mark and snuck the ball through a sea of players surrounding the goal. In an attempt to neutralize the threat, Hazleton attempted to clear the ball, but unfortunately for the Lions, the ball skipped off the foot of the defense and into the net for what turned out to be a game winning own goal. 

Valley Forge took home the win thanks in part to 14 second half shots and ultimately out-shot Hazleton in the match 19-14 with a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks. The Lion's goalkeeper, freshman Bryce Dalpiaz was saddled with the tough luck loss, stopping nine shots on the night in the defeat. 

Next up: Hazleton hits the road for game two of the season where they'll face Pratt Institute on Sunday for a 1:00 p.m. match.