HERSHEY – Warning, trite expressions ahead! Cliche alert!
The Palmyra field hockey team scored just in the nick of time. The Cougars’ goal was better late than never.
On Wednesday night at Milton Hershey School’s Henry Hershey Field, during the semifinals of the District Three Class AAA playoffs, Palmyra netted the latest game-winning goal in the history of its illustrious program. Kylie Bomgardner’s dramatic and time-sensitive tally with 21 seconds remaining was the only goal of the contest and lifted the Cougars to a 1-0 victory over rival Hershey.
The goal was the product of a wild scramble in front of the Trojan cage and resulted from some intense pressure applied by the Cougars as time was running down. It also accentuated a second half in which Palmyra progressively out played Hershey, a team which was responsible for the Cougars’ only two losses of the season.
Now 18-2 overall, second-seeded Palmyra will meet top-seeded Penn Manor, which edged Lower Dauphin by a similar 1-0 count, on Saturday at 5 p.m. back at Henry Hershey Field, for the District Three Class AAA championship. It will represent the defending champs’ fourth straight appearance in a District Three title tilt.
Third-seeded Hershey, which had shut out the Cougars twice during Mid-Penn Keystone Division regular-season play, fell to 16-5-1 on the year.
“We had a shot on the cage,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello. “I think it hit four different girls’ sticks. It was bouncing around and Kylie knocked it in. They (the Trojans) were making us work hard in the circle.
“Yeah, I remember a similar goal when I was in the hospital (during the district playoffs two years ago), but I wasn’t there to see it,” Costello continued. “That one came with about 40 seconds left and it tied the game. I was only getting text messages that night. I got to see this one.”
With the contest scoreless and apparently headed to overtime, the Cougars inserted their tenth corner play of the second half. From the left side of the circle, Palmyra senior Jess Dembrowski got off the initial shot on Hershey goalie Kit Olmsted, and three subsequent attempts followed.
It was Bomgardner’s third goal of the season.
“We talk about playing your role,” said Costello. “It was just stepping up in that moment.
“I am a woman,” continued Costello. “I get to change my mind. I had to call a timeout to set up a corner play. I was trying to get different looks because Hershey’s defense is so good. We were trying to get the ball knocking around in the circle.”
Costello had called timeouts to regroup ahead of corner plays with 7:39 remaining and 2:54 to go. The first one netted a good hard shot by Katelyn Mark from the left side of the circle that ricocheted off the near post.
“Credit goes to our opponent,” added Costello. “They’re an excellent team. I thought both teams played well at different times. I felt fortunate that the game was 0-0 at halftime. But I think you saw our seniors step up at the end.”
After the Cougars leaned on senior net-minder Cheyenne Sprecher to keep the score deadlocked in the first half, they held Hershey without a shot in the second half. The active Sprecher was called upon for four saves, some of which were of the spectacular variety, to record the shutout.
“She was huge,” said Costello of Sprecher’s play. “She played outstanding. She doesn’t get tested often, but she comes up big for us in games like this.
“We were nervous because we didn’t know if we could compete with Hershey,” Costello added. “They’re the ones who had beaten us this year.”
Thanks to its final flurry, Palmyra out shot Hershey 9-6. The Cougars took 11 corners to the Trojans’ ten.
“From the beginning of the season to now, I’m pleased with the journey and the progress we’ve made,” said Costello. “They’ve (her players) done everything we’ve asked them to do. I think they’ve improved. I hope they peak at the right time.
“It’s deja vu for us,” continued Costello. “We’re excited to play for a district championship. They don’t come around often.”
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Class AAA Power Rankings
Final Mid-Penn Conference
Keystone Division Standings
Palmyra Field Hockey
Championship History Since 1998
Capital Division Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2001 – 2009
Keystone Division CO-Champions of the Mid-Penn Conference: 2013, 2014
District III AA Champions: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013
District Three Class AAA Champions: 2015
Pa State AA Champions: 2005
Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007