HERSHEY – It’s not the path they would have chosen. But along the road less traveled there’s more to do and more to see.
And when it becomes a little less about the destination, it becomes a little more about the journey.
On Saturday morning at Hershey High School, the Palmyra field hockey team’s scenic route landed it in the state playoffs. The Cougars shut out Susquehanna Township 2-0 in a fifth-place contest of the District Three Class AA tournament, an affair which pretty much amounted to a play-in game to next week’s PIAA playoffs.
Palmyra tallied goals in each of the halves and used dominant play in the midfield to severely limit the Indians’ scoring chances. In fact, Susquehanna Township managed all of one legitimate scoring chance all morning, and that came late in the contest, after the Cougars had established their two-goal cushion.
As the fifth-place finisher from District Three, Palmyra, now 19-3, will take on the District One champion, on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Susquehanna Township, which had lost two previous, regular-season meetings with the Cougars, ended its year 14-8-1 overall.
“We wanted to obviously make it to the postseason,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello, whose club missed out on earlier Mid-Penn Keystone Division and District Three Class AA opportunities. “Now we’re here and we want to keep going. We enjoy each other’s company. We’d love to play on November 17th (the day of the state championship game).”
Amber Bailey got Palmyra off on the right foot with a very athletic goal with 11:13 left in the first half.
Teammate Katie Dembrowski initiated the play with a long, long cross from the right sidelines. The hard pass traveled through the Indian circle, and instead of trapping it, Bailey one-timed the feed into the Susquehanna Township cage.
“It was great,” said Costello of Bailey’s hand-eye coordination. “Amber kind of came across and knocked it in. But it was a good cross. It (one-timig) is difficult. Amber is very good at that, and you’ve got to be low. It just happens so fast. The goalie and the defense had no chance.
“Katie’s (Dembrowski) just a great distributor,” continued Costello. “She’s always looking to set up her teammates.”
But even though Palmyra dominated much of the action,it was just one breakdown, one good shot, away from staring down a tie game. That was until Megan Miller took matters into her own hands.
Off a corner with 4:36 to go, a Cougar forward uncorked a good hard shot on goal that the Indian netminder kicked out. But the long rebound came to rest on Miller’s stick, and she made no mistakes, drilling a hard blast inside the near post.
“That second goal was important,” Costello said. “Megan finished off a nice strike.
“We’ve been preparing for every game,” Costello continued. “And it’s been one game at a time, especially after Donegal (a 1-0 loss). We’ve been focusing on things we can control.”
Palmyra had misfired on a couple of opportunities before Miller connected on her insurance tally. Seven minutes earlier, Kendall Kreider tipped a Dembrowski blast wide, and early in the second half, Miller had blasted a shot wide.
The Cougars finished with 12 shots and seven corners. Palmyra goalie Nicole Berger picked up the shutout, after turning aside her one test.
“We have some things we need to work on,” said Costello. “But we found the back of the cage twice, so that was nice.
“We have a strong midfield and they’re stepping up,” added Costello. “That’s what the key was today, controlling the midfield.”