HERSHEY – Well I’m living here in Allentown.
And it’s hard to keep a good man down.
But I won’t be getting up today.
And it’s getting very hard to stay.
And we’re living here in Allentown. – Billy Joel
You can’t have cohesion without chemistry.
And you can’t have character without leadership.
On a cool Tuesday evening at Milton Hershey School’s Henry Hershey Field, Palmyra’s emergence as a field hockey team became complete, during a 1-0 victory over rival Lower Dauphin, in the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs. The Cougars netted the game’s only goal just minutes in, then protected it with a swarming defense that limited the Falcons’ looks at Palmyra net minder Cheyenne Sprecher.
With the win, Palmyra, the champions of District Three, moved to 22-2 overall and qualified for its third straight state championship game. That game between the Cougars and District 11 champion Emmaus, which edged Penn Manor 1-0 in the other semi, will be contested on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Whitehall-Coplay school district’s Zephyr Sports Complex.
It will be a rematch of last year’s PIAA title tilt won by Emmaus 1-0 in overtime.
The triumph was also the Cougars’ 11th straight overall and fifth consecutive playoff win at Henry Hershey Field. Palmyra is now 9-1-1 in its last 11 PIAA playoff games.
In addition, the victory was Palmyra’s third of the season over Lower Dauphin, which ended its year at 17-6. The Cougars defeated the Falcons 2-1 in Hummelstown on September 19th and 2-1 at In The Net Sports Complex on October 5.
There was a little more on the line this time around.
“I think that’s huge,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello of the chemistry and character that her team has fostered. “At the beginning of the year, were were a growing team, a green team. But our seniors and upperclassmen have taken it to heart to get the underclassmen up to speed. I think we’ve become very unified, and we’re fighting for each other to the end. I think that’s been a huge key to our success.
“This is a dream, and I feel like any minute I’m going to wake up,” continued Costello. “I never got here (to a state championship game) as a player. I wouldn’t say this team isn’t the most talented, but they found a way to play together. It’s a tribute to our coaching staff, and the families and kids who are part of our program.”
Inserted by Nicole Shank from the left, Dembrowski blistered a drive from the top of the circle. The ball struck a Lower Dauphin defender’s stick in front of the goal and caromed high into the cage, out of the reach of Falcon goalie Katie Lammando.
“Not ever,” said Costello, when asked if she ever felt comfortable. “Because they (the Falcons) had a corner as time expired. Against a good team, you never feel safe. Fortunately, we took advantage of an opportunity we got. That’s kind of become our M.O.. We found a way to score. At this point of the season, it takes a little luck to keep things rolling your way.
“It’s stressful being on the sidelines,” Costello continued. “We coach the kids on every play. I think that helps them not to look ahead and not to look behind, and to stay in the moment. It was a good battle. A lot of the game was played in the midfield, like it usually is between two good teams.”
Palmyra’s defense was on top of its game all night long. But a rash of Lower Dauphin corners late in the second half had the Cougars on their heels.
The final one came as the clock was running down and it produced a good opportunity from the top of the circle for the Falcons. But Palmyra defender Kylie Bomgardner knocked the shot down, and it never reached Sprecher.
It was a fitting end for a scrambling Cougar defense.
“Our defense has been amazing,” said Costello. “Our defenders have been our unsung heroes. Cheyenne was played great. But the defense we had in front of her, they did a great job. I really did think it was a total defensive team effort.
“It was awesome,” added Costello. “We knew it was going to be a great game. I’m just so proud of my team’s heart. We were just trying to find a way to win.”
The Cougars held the Falcons without a shot in the first half, but Lower Dauphin returned the favor in the second 30 minutes of play. Palmyra finished with a modest 3-2 edge in shots.
Thanks to its second-half flurry, Lower Dauphin captured the penalty corner battle 7-5.
“If you’re looking at wins and losses, sure,” said Costello of a Palmyra-Lower Dauphin rivalry that is currently tilted towards the Cougars. “It’s such a good game when we play them. It’s always a one-goal game. It’s such a healthy rivalry. Both teams played as hard as they can.
In the 2014 PIAA Class AAA championship game, Palmyra and Penn Manor played to a 1-1 overtime draw and the sides were declared co-champions. Last season, Emmaus nudged the Cougars 1-0 in overtime of the state title tilt.
“The tie was hard to coach,” said Costello. “I know how to respond to a win and I know how to respond to a loss, but I don’t know how to respond to a tie. I don’t think we played our best against Penn Manor. Last year I think we had the better of the play against Emmaus in 11-against-11.
Palmyra is 1-2-1 overall in state championship games.
|10:00 AM||W 2-0|
|4:00 PM||W 5-0|
|11:00 AM||W 6-0|
|7:00 PM||L 0-1|
|4:00 PM||W 6-1|
|10:00 AM||W 3-1|
|7:00 PM||W 2-1|
|4:00 PM||W 7-1|
@Owen J. Roberts
|7:00 PM||W 3-0|
|9:00 AM||W 4-0|
|2:00 PM||W 4-0|
|6:30 PM||W 6-0|
|7:00 PM||L 0-2|
|2:00 PM||W 4-0|
|5:30 PM||W 6-0|
|7:00 PM||W 2-1|
|9:00 AM||W 6-0|
|5:45 PM||W 3-2|
|3:00 PM||W 3-0|
|7:00 PM||W 1-0|
|5:00 PM||W 3-2|
Council Rock South
|7:00 PM||W 2-0|
|3:00 PM||W 2-1|
|6:00 PM||Milton Hershey School|
Palmyra Individual Statistics
|THROUGH 24 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 AA Champions: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013
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 AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007
PA State AAA Runner-Up 2015
Lebanon County History in
State Field Hockey Championship Games
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
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