BY JEFF FALK
ALLENTOWN – No one is particulary fond of them. And sometimes we can’t control where and when they’re going to occur.
But as far as ends go, it was a pretty clean one.
On Tuesday night at Emmaus High School, the Palmyra field hockey team fell to Wyoming Seminary 2-1 in the semifinals of the PIAA playoffs, but not without a fight. After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Cougars left everything on the field in the second 30 minutes of play.
Palmyra’s first loss of the season to a Class AA school ended its campaign at 18-7. It also snapped the Cougars’ six-game postseason win streak. Palmyra, the District Three champion, was seeking its first trip to the state championship game since 2007.
But instead it will be Wyoming Seminary playing for all the marbles, on Saturday against Villa Maria Academy. The Blue Knights, the champs out of District Two, are now 16-5-2 and the defending Class AA state champions.
“I said to our players at halftime, ‘Do you want to go out and play in the second half?’,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Harshman. “They clawed back. I couldn’t be more pleased with that. If you’re going to go out, that’s the way you want to go out. I’m pleased with the way we played in the second half.
“You dig deep,” Harshman continued. “I told them, ‘What’s the point of playing the second half if you don’t think you can come back?’ We had a chance at many goals. You want that first half back.”
Palmyra had a number of opportunities and near-misses, after registering a goal early in the second half to cut its 2-0 deficit in half. Playing with urgency, the Cougars out shot Wyoming Seminary 5-3 in the second 30 minutes and enjoyed a 5-1 margin in penalty corners.
But it wasn’t meant to be, as Palmyra just couldn’t seem to connect on the equalizer.
“That’s your season,” said Harshman. “That’s your career. It just didn’t happen at the end. We gave ourselves some opportunities, but we didn’t finish.
“We were trying to utilize our right side and our speed,” Harshman added. “We definitely had some exciting moments.”
Down two goals, the Cougars struck quickly in the second half to make the end anxious.
Off a corner 2:28 into the second half, Palmyra worked the ball across the top of the circle for a Kasey Hess drive. With the ball at the pads of Wyoming Seminary goalie, senior Kelly Snyder was there to slam it home.
“I don’t know,” said Harshman, when asked if her team reached its potential. “If you would’ve asked me in September or October I would’ve said they under-achieved. Now I think they went beyond their potential. They learned to fight for each other. I think they got it. That’s why I’m emotional.
“It was a fun ride,” Harshman added. “It wasn’t about themselves. It wasn’t about their parents. It wasn’t about anyone else. It was about the team. You want them to play like a team. I’m very pleased with the way the season ended up. We went out fighting.”
While there may have been some question which was the better team in the end, there was no doubt who was better in the first half.
The Blue Knights applied some sustained pressure from the opening whistle and it resulted in AshLeigh Sebia’s goal 6:56 in. Converting a feed from Kristen Mericle, Sebia unleashed a long shot from the right side of the circle that Palmyra netminder Nicole Berger appeared to have difficulties finding through the maze of players in front of her.
“In the first half, we were working on nerves,” said Harshman. “No one on this team has ever been in the state semifinals before. Sem (Wyoming Seminary) came out guns ablazing.
“I think they came out and we weren’t ready,” added Harshman. “And we were intimidated. I think we were a little nervous. But I was happy about the way we answered.”
Eight minutes later, the Blue Knights made it a two-goal game. Berger had no chance on a rocket off the stick of Ann Romanowski that was ticketed for inside the far post
The play originated from a corner and through teammate Kristian Stefanides.
“They’re very good,” said Harshman of the Blue Knights. “They have a very good team. We gave them a great battle, I think they’d tell you that. They’re very good at scoring. From that point of view, I was happy with the way we matched them.”
In the final tally, Palmyra out shot Wyoming Seminary 7-6 and held a 9-3 margin in penalty corners.
“We have a lot of young kids,” said Harshman. “And we have a great JV team, They’re excited about going forward. It gives us something to hope for. But it won’t be the same. Every team is different.
“They gained a lot of confidence the last couple of weeks,” concluded Harshman. “The seniors were leading the way and the underclassmen definitely stepped up. We were successful because everyone played their roles.”