WHITEHALL – It was the second best season and anyone in the state of Pennsylvania could’ve possibly put together. But for the Palmyra field hockey team, it just didn’t seem good enough.
For the second straight year.
On Saturday afternoon at Whitehall-Coplay School District’s Zephyr Sports Complex, the Cougars fell one win, one goal, one shot short of their ultimate goal. Palmyra lost 1-0 to Emmaus, in overtime of the PIAA Class AAA championship game.
Following 60 minutes of competitive and scoreless hockey, the Hornets’ dangerous junior forward, Meredith Sholder, tallied the game’s only goal, 1:07 into the initial 15-minute, seven-on-seven, sudden-death session. It was the only shot of the overtime period and it was generated from the extra period’s initial push.
The result marked the second straight season in which Palmyra qualified for the state championship game and didn’t come away with the desired outcome. Last year, Palmyra shared a state championship with Penn Manor, following a controversial 1-1 draw the Comets.
In addition to snapping Palmyra’s 17-game win streak, the loss gave the Cougars a final overall record of 25-3. Before yesterday’s outcome, Palmyra had captured Keystone division, Mid-Penn Conference and District Three championships.
Emmaus, the District 11 champion, concluded the campaign as an undefeated PIAA champion. Prior to their 26 straight wins, the Hornets’ last loss had come at the hands of the Cougars, a 4-0 setback in the semifinals of the 2014 PIAA tournament.
“It’s definitely a different feeling,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello of last season’s shared crown. “Last year we got a state title. I don’t have a gold medal handing around my neck now. But it was hard to counsel our kids last year. We didn’t know how to feel. This year, I know how to counsel our kids.
“It’s a tough one,” added Costello. “We’re very proud to make it to the state championship game two years in-a-row. This team is very goal-oriented. This goal was the one thing we were searching for. They’re great kids. They play together.”
The enthusiastic crowd had just hunkered down for a long, drawn-out overtimes session, and suddenly it was over. The decisive play was originated by Green Hornet sophomore Leah Zellner’s rush down the left sideline.
Zellner centered a ball that eluded the clearing attempt of Palmyra goalie Cheyenne Sprecher. And Sholder was there to jam it into the open Cougar cage.
It was the only goal that the Cougars’ surrendered in the state playoffs.
“They carried the ball down the left side of the field,” said Costello of the Green Hornets. “The one girl crossed it, and that’s all I saw. I knew it was over. She (Sholder) was a priority, but she got loose.
Palmyra owned the better of the play in the second half.
The Cougars held Emmaus without a shot during the second 30 minutes of regulation, while amassing four of their own and generating seven penalty corners. But many of the Cougar attempts were just off the mark or were taken from long distance.
“They do a really good job of flying on corners,” said Costello of the Green Hornets. “It was hard for us to find time to take a shot and then get a ball through. They just had a great team in general. They were really solid.
“They (the Green Hornets) made a play and we didn’t,” continued Costello. “That’s how it goes. We had our chances.”
Emmaus came out on fire and really took it to the Cougars early on, but Sprecher was on top of her game and turned away every Green Hornet attempt. Palmyra finished the first half with a flurry and seemed to carry that momentum into the second stanza.
“All postseason long we’ve been saying how much are seniors have been leading us,” said Cotello. “But their still kids. I’m a 30-year-old coach and I was nervous before the game. I thought the nerves would work themselves out, and they did. We definitely dominated the second half, but we couldn’t put the ball in the cage. We weren’t able to get the transition game going.
“It doesn’t always happen,” Costello continued. “Just because you want something doesn’t always mean you’re going to get it. Hopefully we’ll be able to take away the friendships from this journey.”
The contest marked the first time all season that the Cougars were shut out.
“Cheyenne had a great postseason run,” said Costello. “She just comes up big. She’s a gamer. And the kids in the cage in defensive corners were great.
“It was a new year. A new team,” added Costello. “We try not to focus on that (the last meeting with Emmaus). I’m not sure what was motivating them.”
Palmyra is now 1-2-1 all-time in state championship games.
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|4:00 PM||W 3-1|
|4:00 PM||W 8-0|
|3:00 PM||W 1-0|
|4:00 PM||W 3-1|
|4:00 PM||W 9-0|
|4:00 PM||W 10-0|
|7:00 PM||L 2-3|
|4:00 PM||W 4-0|
|9:00 AM||W 3-2|
|10:00 AM||L 1-2|
|4:00 PM||W 6-0|
|4:00 PM||W 7-0|
|4:00 PM||W 2-0|
|1:45 PM||W 1-0|
|4:00 PM||W 5-0|
|6:30 PM||W 5-0|
|6:30 PM||W 1-0|
|6:30 PM||W 10-1|
|5:00 PM||W 8-0|
|7:00 PM||W 2-1|
|7:00 PM||W 6-0|
|3:00 PM||W 3-0|
|5:00 PM||W 2-1|
|3:00 PM||W 1-0|
@Owen J. Roberts
|6:00 PM||W 2-0|
|12:00 PM||W 3-0|
|6:00 PM||W 3-0|
|2:00 PM||L 0-1|
Palmyra’s 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; 2015
Keystone Division Co-Champions: 2013, 2014
Mid-Penn Conference Champions: 2009, 2015
District III AA Champions: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013
District III AAA Champions: 1998, 2015
Pa State AA Champions: 2005
Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007, 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
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