PHOTOS BY LORI MESSERSMITH
WHITEHALL – Some say they would rather lose a close game at the end then endure a blowout throughout. Others contend they would rather be beaten convincingly then have their expectations dashed by heart break.
In the world of ways to lose, neither is an acceptable outcome for a state championship game.
But perhaps the most important thing members of the Palmyra field hockey team gleaned from their experience as a whole was maximizing their time together.
On an unseasonable Saturday afternoon at Whitehall-Coplay school district’s Zephyr Field, the Cougars surprising run to the PIAA Class AAA championship contest ended in disappointment, a 5-1 loss to unbeaten, untied and unchallenged Emmaus. It marked Palmyra’s third straight appearance in the state championship game.
Employing incredible skills and superior speed, the Green Hornets tallied three goals in the opening 23:46 of the contest, including a pair 1:35 apart late in the first half. Though the valiant Cougars fought to the bitter end, they were never able to overcome Emmaus’ fast start.
With the result, Palmyra, champions of District Three, ended its season at 23-3. The triumph was District 11 champion Emmaus’ 28th in-a-row this fall, and 56th straight overall.
The Green Hornets also defeated the Cougars for last year’s PIAA Class AAA championship, but in a totally different manner, 1-0 in overtime. Actually, Palmyra is the last team to defeat Emmaus – 4-0 in the semifinals of the 2014 state playoffs.
“I’m really proud,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello, fighting to keep her emotions in check. “It’s a great way to end. This team rejuvenated our coaching staff a little bit. As they grew, they energized us. They almost taught me to believe again. They taught me to never give up and that good things can happen.
“I think it speaks volumes of the kids at Palmyra,” continued Costello. “Our parents allow us to coach the girls. It’s been an amazing journey. I don’t think a lot of people thought we were going to be here. I think they’re (her players) going to do great things when they move on.”
Staring down a 3-0 halftime deficit, freshman Lauren Wadas injected life into the Cougars and gave them hope, by scoring a goal 7:24 into the second half. Out of a corner insert from Nicole Shank, Wadas fired a high drive at the Green Hornet cage that deflected off an Emmaus defender’s stick and into the short side.
“They were great,” said Costello of the Green Hornets. “I was proud of my team being here. We knew what we were up against. We had some luck getting here, but we didn’t have too much luck today. It was a great ride.
“The growth of this team has been unbelievable,” Costello continued. “We were very young starting out, but our seniors and captains helped mold them and helped them mature. They started see them as family.”
“I think we’re all happy we made it this far, and got a chance to fight for a state championship,” said Palmyra senior midfielder Jess Dembrowski. “I don’t think we played our best game.”
But if Wadas’ goal created any sort of momentum for a Cougar comeback, it was short-circuited by Emmaus’ Kayla Kisthardt 11 minutes later. Kisthardt was at the right place at the right time – the right goal post – after Palmyra goalie Cheyenne Sprecher turned aside an initial shot from a corner play.
Kisthardt’s score re-established the Green Hornets’ three-goal bulge, before teammate Madison Dill applied the finishing touches with 50 seconds remaining. Dill finished an Emmaus ‘fast break’ that originated from a Cougar corner and transitioned through teammate Kacie Patton.
“That sucks, to put it bluntly,” said Costello of three straight appearances in the state championship game without a win. “But it takes a lot to have the opportunities. Our time will come one day.
“Teaching them to work together and to not be selfish, I think that’s what they (her players) learned this year,” added Costello. “I see them as an extension of our family, sort of like younger sisters. I adore them. They fight for me because they know I’ll fight for them.”
“Of course we do,” said Sprecher, when asked if she remembered the 2014 state semifinal game against Emmaus.
It was superstar Meredith Sholder and teammate Emily Ingalls who got Emmaus off and winging 2:40 in, as it scored on the first shot of the game, generated by the first corner. Sholder fed Ingasls, who going right, ripped a blast that eluded Sprecher to the far side.
“We were nervous,” said Costello. “We tried to so hard to get them relaxed and calmed down. Then it was 2-0, and it was 3-0. But I still felt we had opportunities.
With 7:49 remaining in the first half, Emmaus netted the first of two quick goals that really put the Cougars behind the eight-ball.
On a Green Hornet counter attack, a Palmyra defender misplayed a ball and it sent Patton in alone on Sprecher. But instead of shooting, Patton shuffled a pass to her left, and on to the stick of Leah Zellner, who wristed a shot inside the left post.
Sholder closed out her senior season with 47 goals, and her career with an amazing 160.
“Our senior class is amazing,” said Costello. “Great kids from great families. They allowed us to coach them. I’m really proud of them. They know how lucky they were to get three state medals. I am proud of what they accomplished.
“We’re going to lose a lot,” Costello added. “We have some young talent coming up. Hopefully we can get back to Whitehall eventually.”
In the final tally, Emmaus out shot Palmyra 20-2. The Green Hornets enjoyed an 11-10 edge in penalty corners.
Palmyra is now 1-3-1 all time in PIAA title tilts. It was was the Cougars’ most lopsided loss in recent memory.
|09/02||@Hempfield||10:00 AM||W 2-0|
|09/07 *||Mechanicsburg||4:00 PM||W 5-0|
|09/10||@Elizabethtown||11:00 AM||W 6-0|
|09/12 *||Hershey||7:00 PM||L 0-1|
|09/15 *||@Red Land||4:00 PM||W 6-1|
|09/17||Twin Valley||10:00 AM||W 3-1|
|09/19 *||@Lower Dauphin||7:00 PM||W 2-1|
|09/21 *||Susquehanna Twp.||4:00 PM||W 7-1|
|09/22||@Owen J. Roberts||7:00 PM||W 3-0|
|09/24 #||North Allegheny||9:00 AM||W 4-0|
|09/24 #||@Warwick||2:00 PM||W 4-0|
|09/27 *||@Mechanicsburg||6:30 PM||W 6-0|
|09/29 *||@Hershey||7:00 PM||L 0-2|
|10/01||@Manheim Central||2:00 PM||W 4-0|
|10/03 *||Red Land||5:30 PM||W 6-0|
|10/05 *||Lower Dauphin||7:00 PM||W 2-1|
|10/08||Central Dauphin||9:00 AM||W 6-0|
|10/12 *||@Susquehanna Twp.||5:45 PM||W 3-2|
|10/29 #||Dallastown||3:00 PM||W 3-0|
|11/02 #||Hershey||7:00 PM||W 1-0|
|11/05 #||@Penn Manor||5:00 PM||W 3-2|
|11/08 #||Council Rock South||7:00 PM||W 2-0|
|11/12 #||@Unionville||3:00 PM||W 2-1|
Palmyra Individual Statistics
|THROUGH 25 GAMES…|
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
Mid-Penn Conference Champions: 2009
District III AAA Champions: 2015, 2016
1984 – ???
1991 – Ann Gruber
2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 – Wendy Reichenbach
2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 – Kristi Harshman-Costello
Pa State AA Champions: 2005
Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007
PA State AAA Runner-Up 2015, 2016
Lebanon County History in
State Field Hockey Championship Games
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