Hazleton splits weekend series with PSUAC West

Kelsey Sonntag sends a header into the net.
Kelsey Sonntag sends a header into the net.

Hazleton, Pa. - Hazleton's first home games of the season are in the books after the Lions played host to a pair of campuses from the west. Hazleton suffered a lob sided defeat at the hands of Penn State New Kensington on Saturday afternoon, but bounced back on Sunday with their highest output of offense on the season, topping Penn State Fayette by the score of 5-1. 

Saturday, September 25 - Penn State New Kensington 12, Penn State Hazleton 2

Torrential rains in the area on Thursday forced the Lions away from the friendly confines of campus on to the artificial surface of Crispin Field in Berwick, Pa. A flurry of three goals by New Kensington in the first 18 minutes left Hazleton chasing all afternoon. Midway through the first half, Hazleton's Fernando Cruz (Benton, Pa.) notched his first goal of the season on a cross sent in by Sylver Brown (Mt. Top, Pa.) that cut the New Kensington lead to 3-1. Moments later, Hazleton would threaten again following a New Kensington foul in their own territory. That led to a direct kick opportunity by Nicholas Ruggeri (Mt. Top, Pa.) who fired a shot into the upper left 90 and gave momentum to the Nittany Lions looking for an upset win.

That offensive push was short-lived however as New Kensington responded on the ensuing kickoff, extending the lead back to two goals on a score by Jordan Cooper with just under 20 minutes remaining in the half. The New Kensington offense would be unrelenting from that point on, tacking on two more scores before the horn and taking a comfortable 6-2 advantage into the final period. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, offensive chances would be hard to come by in a second half where the visitors took complete ownership of the game tempo. New Kensington would go on to add six additional scores in the second half and run away for the victory. Four New Kensington players ended the game with multiple scores including Cooper who finished with a game high four goals in the 12-2 win over Hazleton. 

Sunday, September 26 - Penn State Fayette 1, Penn State Hazleton 5

Despite a rocky start to Sunday's game, Hazleton flipped the script in this one to pick up their first win of the 2021 season. A first-minute goal by Fayette's Alec McClay came on the game's first possession as McClay secured a through ball from Adrian Edwards, tucking the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead. Hazleton continued to trail for the next 31 minutes of play but the Lions were getting chances on goal and in the 33rd minute of play, Ethan Hendricks (Mifflinburg, Pa.) struck from 35 yards away on a well placed free kick that sailed into the net just below the crossbar. Both squads went into the halftime break tied at one goal a piece but Hazleton dominated the time of possession and out-shot Fayette 15-1 in the opening period. 

It was a similar story in the second half of the matchup although in the final stanza, Hazleton would convert 14 opportunities into a four-score half while Bryce Dalpiaz (Liverpool, Pa.) and the Hazleton defense went on to keep a clean sheet for the final 89 minutes of action on Sunday. Hazleton broke through for the lead in the first minute of the second half with Nicholas Ruggeri notching his third goal of the season on a breakaway attempt set up by Hendricks. Hazleton maintained a strong presecense offensively following the go ahead score, earning four corner kicks over the next 17 minutes but failed to extend the lead. All that changed on Hazleton's fifth corner of the half, when Fernando Cruz connected on the crossing pass. Cashing in the goal was Kelsey Sonntag (Bangor, Pa.) who locked in on the pass, sending a brilliant header past the Fayette keeper for her first career score. Sonntag's goal proved historic as well as she became the first female athlete to score a goal in a men's game in the history of soccer at the Hazleton campus. 

Hazleton carried the 3-1 cushion into the late stages of play but the Lions would get a pair of insurance goals to seal up the victory. Once again it was Fernando Cruz getting in on the action although this time, the left wing found himself on the receiving end of two passes from Nicholas Ruggeri. Cruz found the net in the 87th minute and again in the 91st to lock up the win by the final score of 5-1 and a 29-5 advantage in the shot column. 

Next up: The Lions wrap up the month of September on a high note and will look to continue their success when play resumes next weekend. Hazleton will travel to Penn State Beaver on Saturday, October 2 for a 2:00 p.m. PSUAC matchup.