WHITEHALL – Sometimes they haven’t played well.
Sometimes they’ve been out played.
Other times, things simply haven’t gone their way.
And while each trip has been an independent event, the state championship game certainly hasn’t been kind to Lebanon County’s top scholastic sports program.
On a brisk Saturday afternoon at Whitehall High School’s Zephyr Sports Complex, the Palmyra field hockey team endured another disappointing outcome in a state championship game, dropping a 2-1 decision to Wyomming Valley West in the PIAA Class AA final. After the Cougars had assumed a 1-0 lead early in the second half, the Spartans tallied a pair of goals later in the stanza to win it.
The outcome denied Palmyra, 22-4 and the District Three Class AA champion, another state title. It was the Cougars’ fifth appearance in a PIAA final over the last six years.
All-time, Palmyra is now 1-5-1 in PIAA finals. In those seven contests – all since 2005 – the Cougars have been outscored by a combined margin of 12-8.
Wyoming Valley West, the champions from District Two, raised the Class AA state championship trophy with a 15-2 mark.
“It just has not gone well for us at Whitehall,” said Palmyra head coach Kent Harshman. “We just haven’t been able to put it together. We feel like we’ve been well prepared. The approach has been extremely similar. The goal will be to get back here.
“Nobody died. It’s not devastating,” added Harshman. “We respect, from an athletic standpoint, that it’s tough to get here. Our seniors get here three times, which is just a tremendous accomplishment. Unfortunately, things just haven’t gone our way.”
“I’m very upset right now,” said Palmyra senior leader Lauren Wadas. “It stings. It really does. You never want it to end like this. But someone had to lose. It’s amazing to say we got here three out of my four years, but we wanted to come out on top.”
With the score knotted at one late in the second half, junior forward Cameryn Forgash tallied the state-championship-winning goal for Wyoming Valley West, with 8:55 remaining. But the play was set up by diminutive freshman Ariana Rysz.
It was Rysz who carried the ball through a number of Cougar defenders and into the Palmyra circle. From right to left, Rysz shuffled a short pass to Forgash, who tipped the ball past Cougar goalie Katie Knol and into the Palmyra cage.
Following Forgash’s tally, Palmyra was unable to must either another shot on goal or another corner.
Prior to yesterday, the Cougars had allowed only a single goal in their previous seven playoff contests.
“She’s a good player,” said Harshman of Rysz. “We knew about her. She proved her mettle today. She made a couple of plays in the circle. They (the Spartans) made two plays and we made one. Hats off to Wyoming Valley West, they responded the way they had to.
“We knew they (the Spartans) were very good,” Harshman added. “We knew it was going to take a special effort. Wyoming Valley West made more plays than us.”
“I thought we played well,” said Wadas. “But their defense was really strong. I think they were just really focusing on their defense. They had two or three people on each player.”
Following a tightly played first half, Wadas gave the Cougars a 1-0 edge 4:30 into the second half. Off somewhat of a scramble from the left portion of the Wyoming Valley West circle, Wadas ripped a reverse shot inside the left post.
“They played really, really well in the midfield,” said Harshman of the Spartans. “We knew from watching them on filim that they were strong on the forward line and in the midfield. We were hoping it would come down to our forwards against their backs. But to make excuses would take away from Wyoming Valley West. I don’t want to do that. It was their day.
“Our kids have been focused on this for 365 days,” continued Harshman. “They wanted to get back to the state championship game (following a 1-0, overtime setback to Donegal in 2018). It’s very disappointing for them. We have to move forward and focus on all the great things we accomplished.”
“I just wanted to take my free hit quickly,” said Wadas of her goal. “I had an open shot and I took it.”
After falling behind, it took Wyoming Valley West 3:40 to tie it. From the right, a hard cross was played into the Palmyra goal mouth and Spartan Ariane Rupnick was there to re-directed it home.
“Fortunately, we have resilient kids,” said Harshman. “Our kids will come back and work hard in the off season. They’ll recover. We’re talking about great young women. They’re all going to be very, very successful.
“We start six juniors and sophomores,” Harshman continued. “Our first four off the bench are freshmen. We’re going to try to reload, not rebuild. We’re going to miss our seniors. But we’ll be back next year.”
“Luckily, we can say we got here,” said Wadas. “Not many people can say that. But our goals are to win district and state championships. The goal is to win it, not just get here.”
On the final tally, Palmyra outshot Wyoming Valley West 6-5. The Cougars inserted six corners, compared to the Spartans’ four.
|8/301:00p||@ Manheim Township (Lancaster, PA)Location: Manheim Township High SchoolBox Score||(W) 6 – 1|
|8/3110:00a||Milton Hershey (Hershey, PA)Location: Palmyra High School||(W) 10 – 0|
|9/15:30p||@ Red Land (Lewisberry, PA)Location: Red Land High School|
|9/47:00p||@ Lower Dauphin (Hummelstown, PA)Location: Lower Dauphin High School||(L) 2 – 1|
|9/71:00p||@ Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, PA)Location: Central Dauphin High SchoolBox Score||(W) 7 – 3|
|9/94:00p||Susquehanna Township (Harrisburg, PA)Location: Palmyra High School|
|9/115:30p||@ Mechanicsburg (Mechanicsburg, PA)Location: Mechanicsburg High School||(W) 10 – 1|
|9/237:00p||Lower Dauphin (Hummelstown, PA)Location: Palmyra High School||(L) 1 – 0|
|9/254:00a||@ Susquehanna Township (Harrisburg, PA)Location: Susquehanna Township High School|
|9/307:00p||Mechanicsburg (Mechanicsburg, PA)Location: Palmyra High School|
|10/2TBA||Berks Catholic (Reading, PA)Location: Palmyra High School|
|10/105:30p||Wilson (West Lawn, PA)Location: Palmyra High School||(W) 2 – 0|
|10/237:00p||Cocalico (Denver, PA)|
|10/263:00p||@ Donegal (Mt. Joy, PA)Location: Donegal High School||(W) 4 – 0|
|11/55:00p||Mt. St. Joseph Academy (Flourtown, PA)Game Details: Milton Hershey High School||(W) 5 – 0|
|11/91:00p||@ Upper Perkiomen (Pennsburg, PA)Game Details: Twin Valley High School|
|11/123:00p||Twin Valley (Elverson, PA)Game Details: Milton Hershey High School||(W) 4 – 0|
|11/1612:00p||@ Wyoming Valley West (Plymouth, PA)Game Details: Whitehall High School, Whitehall High School|
2019 – Wyoming Valley West 2, Palmyra 1
2018 – Class AA Donegal 1, Palmyra 0, OT
2016 – Class AAA – Emmaus 5, Palmyra 1
2015 – Class AAA, Emmaus 1, Palmyra 0, OT
2014 – Class AAA, Palmyra 1, Penn Manor 1, OT
2007 – Class AA, Mifflinburg 2, Palmyra 1, OT
2005 – Class AA, Palmyra 4, Oley Valley 0
1994 – Class AA, Villa Maria Academy 1, Elco 0, OT
1992 – Class AA, Upper Moreland 1, Elco 0, 2 OTs
1979 – Class AAA, Great Valley 2, Northern Lebanon 1
1978 – Class AAA, Delaware Valley 3, Cedar Crest 0
1977 – Class AAA, Cedar Crest 3, Southern Columbia 0
Capital Division Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2001 – 2009
Keystone Division CO-Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2013, 2014
Mid-Penn Conference Champions: 2009
District III AA Champions: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2019
District III AAA Champions: 2015, 2016
1984 – ???
1991 – Ann Gruber
2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 – Wendy Reichenbach
2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 – Kristi Harshman-Costello
2019 – Kent Harshman
Pa State AA Champions: 2005
Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007
Pa. State AA Runner-up 2019
Pa State AA Runner-Up 2018
Pa State AAA Runner-Up 2015
PA State AAA Runner-Up 2016