Maureen Malone scored two goals for Poland, which will play Howland.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
POLAND -- A late-season change of goal keepers by Poland High girls soccer coach Jim Sutman has made postseason victories for the Bulldogs nearly a Shure thing.
Junior keeper Pam Shure fought off 18 Green Bulldog shots, including 10 in the second half, to lead Poland (15-2-2) to a 4-0 victory in a Division I district semifinal game at Poland.
Shure and the Poland defense pitched their third straight shutout in the playoffs, which earned the Bulldogs a match at Metro Athletic Conference rival Howland Saturday at 7 p.m.
Poland previously beat Canton McKinley 8-0 and Uniontown Lake 4-0 in sectional play.
Playoff soccer means good defensive play and the Bulldogs were at their best against a Green team that has played its best soccer of the season late in the year. The Bulldogs also boasted one of the top soccer players state-wide in senior Julie Devus.
Shure and her teammates were outstanding on their own end of the field for most of the game and certainly in the second half.
"Pam Shure is an interesting player," Sutman said. "She just doesn't get rattled in any situation.
"She stays on an even keel even when things are going good or bad."
Shure needed to be at her best as the Orange-clad Bulldogs peppered her with shots that she saved or watched bounced off the goal posts.
"It was tough but you have to give credit to the defense," Shure said. "Everyone on the defense pumps me up. I do what I can do but it's really a team effort."
Shure and defensive sweeper Stephanie Armstrong, along with defensive standouts Rachel Cooper, Jill Roemer, Tori Rumble and Sam Stanich were the strong back line that kept Green scoreless.
Green (9-9-1) had several good shots on goal in the second half as they battled to get back in the game, including two free kicks by Devus that were saved by Shure.
"We played a defensive alignment which we've gone to since the playoffs started," Sutman said. "It has been very effective for us so far because we have some great athletes back there."
While Poland's defense was invincible, it's offense was certainly efficient. The Bulldogs scored four goals while only taking six shots on goal the entire evening.
"We only played two forwards," Sutman said. "But they are outstanding players with great ball skills. We were able to make the most of our opportunities on offense and got out to a 2-0 lead at the half."
Senior Maureen Malone, who leads the area in goals, and Kelly Storkel sparked Poland. Storkel scored at the 16:40 mark on an assist by Shelby Ludt. It was Poland's first shot of the game.
The game's biggest shot came off the foot of Malone, who blasted a perfectly placed 21-yard free kick in the back of the net by hooking the ball over two defenders and just out of the reach of Green's keeper Amanda Unroe with just 33 seconds left in the first half.
"That was exciting," said Malone. "I just wanted to put it away and give us a good lead heading into halftime."
Poland tacked on two late goals when Sam Robertson scored on a rebound shot by Malone with 5:21. Malone added her second goal on an assist by Katie Hiznay with just 1:58 left.
"I'm beaming with pride," Sutman said. "To beat a team of this quality and play as well as we did is nice. I would have taken a 1-0 win in a heartbeat.
"We played technically sound and just didn't make any mistakes."