HUMMELSTOWN – Championships have the ability to create a sense of urgency. But nothing can trigger the old S.O.U. like the survival instinct.
Faced with its first do-or-die situation of the season, the Palmyra field hockey team performed with a sense of urgency on Wednesday evening at Lower Dauphin Middle School. And that sense of urgency was as responsible as anything for the Cougars’ 2-1 victory over Milton Hershey, in a consolation game of the District Three Class AA playoffs.
Megan Soucy’s goal early in the second half was the game-winner, as Palmyra kept its promising season alive. After falling into a 1-0 hole midway through the first half, Amber Bailey registered the first Cougar goal in more than 88 minutes of playoff field hockey.
Palmyra, the top seed and 18-3, will now take on the winner between Lancaster Mennonite and Susquehanna Township, Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Hershey High School, for the district’s fifth and final spot in the PIAA Class AA postseason. Milton Hershey, the 12th seed, ended its year at 15-7.
“Our kids are not ones to take things lightly,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello. “They understood they had to win to move on. They wanted to perform. They wanted to move on.
“Our girls knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game,” Costello continued. “They knew it was going to be tough and they had to win. They knew the regular season meant nothing. But they didn’t want their season to end.”
Soucy’s tally, 2:20 into the second half, was a testament to the power of persistence.
Off a corner play that Soucy initiated, and an ensuing scramble, Palmyra got off four shots on Sparta goalie Kiki Pourminour. Pourminour kicked the first three out, but Soucy got her on the fourth, as the Milton Hershey keeper was sprawled across the goal mouth.
The junior back managed to fit her second attempt between Pourminour and the near post.
“She does a great job of inserting for us,” said Costello of Soucy. “She had a great ball out, and then she got hungry. She stayed with it.
“They (her players) were definitely devastated by Saturday (a 1-0 loss to Donegal in the quarterfinals),” Costello added. “The coaching staff was too. When it’s that close, you can sense the frustration. But sometimes we try too hard. We didn’t try to do it individually. Today we found out if we pass the ball, work the ball up the field, we’re going to be successful.”
Facing a 1-0 deficit and time running down in the first half, Palmyra’s pressing paid off, in the form of an Amber Bailey goal.
Playing play-maker, Cougar junior Megan Miller patiently controlled the ball to the right of the Milton Hershey cage. Miller then slid a pass across the Spartan circle. An initial Palmyra forward missed on her tip-in attempt, before a diving Bailey got her stick on it to deflect it high into the MH goal.
“That was awesome,” said Costello. “We kept knocking and kept knocking. And finally we got one to fall.
“I was really impressed with our passing,” added Costello, “and our ability to create two-v-ones.”
Milton Hershey had jumped out to a 1-0 lead, with 13:42 showing on the first half clock, on a great individual effort from Shafiquah Pressley. Pressley carried the ball half the length of the field, dribbled around two Cougar defenders, then went hard to her right to beat Palmyra goalie Nicole Berger.
“Milton Hershey is so fast,” said Costello. “They have so much speed. We felt suffocated. At halftime we talked about knowing what you’re going to do with the ball when you get it, thinking ahead. I thought we did a good job of that in the second half, beating them with passes.
“We definitely played with a sens of urgency,” Costello added. “But sometimes that can work against you when you try too hard. They (her players) knew the consequences of losing, and they didn’t want their season to end.”
Eleven of the Cougars’ shots came in the second half, as Palmyra out shot Milton Hershey 14-4. The Cougars executed 12 penalty corners to the Spartans’ five.
“Susquehanna Township or Lancaster Mennonite, either way it’s going to be a battle,” said Costello. “But we don’t care who we play. We’re just worried about playing our game.
“Our goal was obviously to be district champions,” Costello continued. “But it didn’t happen. But we still have an opportunity to be a state champion, but we have to take it one game at a time.
“We have a tough road ahead, especially with who we play Saturday. If we could get past that game, then we would play the winner of District One. But I really do think we can play with anyone.”