HERSHEY – Sometimes the Palmyra field hockey team’s reputation proceeds it.
There exists a school of thought that expects the Cougars to win playoff games based simply on their storied past. But that just isn’t the case.
Anything Palmyra has gotten – and will get – has been earned. And sometimes even when the Cougars play well, it’s not enough.
On Saturday afternoon at Hershey High School, Palmyra suffered a rare quarterfinal loss in the District Three Class AA playoffs, falling to Donegal 1-0. The Indians scored their goal early in the second half, then held on in the face of the Cougars’ swarming attack.
The loss was the first to a Class AA oponent this season for Palmyra, now 17-3 and the 2011 District Three champion. But it did not end its campaign.
Because District Three sends five teams to the PIAA Championship tournament, the top-seeded Cougars will have to win their next two consolation games to get to states. The first of those two will be played Tuesday, against an opponent, and at a site, yet to be announced.
The win lifted Donegal, the ninth seed, to 18-3-1.
“We knew what we were matched up against,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello. “Palmyra-Donegal is always going to be a great game, I don’t care what the seeds are. We had many opportunities. We were dominating the shots and corners. In these games, it’s a matter of inches.
“This is a hard match-up in the quarterfinal round,” Costello continued. “To be the best you’ve got to beat the best. But Donegal beat us today.”
Off a corner insert 9:24 into the second half, Donegal senior Kirsten Gochnauer unleashed a hard blast from the top of the circle. A Cougar defender got a piece of Gochnauer’s shot, and the ball dribbled to the right of the Palmyra cage.
But Indian Sarah Mummau was there, and she managed to fit her rebound between diving Palmyra goalie Nicole Berger and the right post.
“Donegal has a great corner striker in Gochnauer,” said Costello. “And she got off a good strike. The ball started banging around, and it got knocked off of our stick. They’re (the Indians) good at that.
“Donegal capitalized today,” Costello added, “and we didn’t. We played great. Unfortunately, we were on the losing end.”
The statistics bore out Costello’s impression of the match. Palmyra out shot Donegal 11-3 and held an 11-5 advantage in penalty corners.
“On one of our corners, they had a great defensive save,” said Costello of the Indians. “In a game like this, it’s the details. In the second half, we were getting the ball in the right people’s hands. We just couldn’t get it in the back of the net.
“Their goalie (Kylee Bair) stayed alive,” continued Costello. “She really moved well. I just thought it was a great game. I’m not disappointed with the way we played. We played well. We played hard.”
Bair may have been the Cougars’ chief nemesis. Time and time again, Donegal’s active netminder thwarted the Palmyra attack.
After stoning Palmyra’s Kendall Kreider in the first half, Bair was equal to the task on a tip by Cougar Amber Bailey midway through the second stanza. Then in the final 14 minutes of action, Bair made sprawling saves on good shots from Palmyra’s Megan Miller twice, before standing tall on a Haley Bova attempt off a corner, with 4:20 to go.
“I thought to the end whistle we were fighting,” said Costello. “The good news is we’re not done and still alive. They (her players) don’t want their season to end. So I’m sure they’ll do what it takes to rebound.”