BY JEFF FALK
WHITEHALL – Destinations are contrived and stagnant and predictable.
Rides are fluid and spontaneous. Not only don’t you know where you’re going, you’re not sure how you’re getting there.
By embracing it, the Palmyra field hockey team got the absolute most out of the ride.
On a chilly Saturday evening at Whitehall-Coplay School District’s Zephyr Sports Complex, the Cougars’ inspirational ride ended with a 1-0 overtime setback to Donegal, in the PIAA Class AA Championship game. After taking its season as far as it could go, Palmyra finished with broken hearts, after playing them out.
Donegal notched the state-championship-winning goal nine minutes into the initial seven-on-seven, sudden-death OT session on a spectacular individual effort by Indian superstar Mackenzie Allessie. It was a harsh reminder to the Cougars that when you give it your all, the only thing left to do is tip your cap to the opponent.
Palmyra, the runner-up out of District Three, concluded its year at 19-6-1. But last night’s contest was in stark contrast to the District Three Class AA title tilt on November 3rd, whien Donegal bested the Cougars 3-0.
For the 28-1 Indians, it was their second PIAA Class AA crown in three seasons.
Palmyra, which was making its fourth state final appearance in five years and sixth overall, fell to 1-4-1 all-time in PIAA championship tilts.
“I don’t do well with measurements,” said Palmyra head coach Kent Harshman. “We wanted to win. Nobody gave us a chance to get to this game. We really grew a lot over the last two weeks. We were better today than we were two weeks ago against them (in the District Three championship game). We expected to compete with them, and they (his players) did.
“I think it’s an accumulative deal,” continued Harshman. “The whole team played 26 games, which is almost a season and a half. It’s longer than a lot of teams. I always feel most for the seniors, because it’s their last day.”
Allessie’s walk-off, game-winner was a spectacular, length-of-the field rush, and it came with 6:01 remaining in the initial seven-on-seven extra session – after the Cougars had generated four consecutive corners.
Along the way, Allessie stick-handled around a number of Palmyra defenders, before sauntering into the Cougar circle. After going right, the Inidan senior changed direction, then reversed a short shot into the Palmyra cage.
It was Allessie’s national-high-school-record 351st goal of her career.
“It was just a great carry from the 25-yard line,” said Harshman of Allessie’s golden goal. “She was just unbelievable. She’s incredibly blessed. She may have the fastest hands our coaching staff has ever seen.
“We went up and down the field with them,” added Harshman. “She’s not the all-time leading goal scorer in high school field hockey without a reason. When she has more space, she’s even more dangerous.”
During regulation and for the most of overtime, the Cougars had controlled Allessie and the Indians with multiple markers. A Palmyra defense anchored by active goalie Ashton Byrd performed admirably.
“I thought we played well, especially defensively,” said Harshman. “The thing I was really proud of was when she came down the field we had wave after wave after wave on her. There was no intimidation today.
“Fourteen months ago, Ashton wasn’t even playing the sport,” Harshman continued. “She did a great job. She’s gotten better and stronger as the season’s gone on.”
Donegal generated five corners in the contest’s six minutes. And 11 minutes before the break, the Indians had an apparent Allessie-generated tally waved off.
But the bottom line for the Cougars was that they weren’t able to create enough dangerous scoring opportunities – or more accurately, cash in on the ones they did get.
“No, we didn’t,” said Harshman. “It’s the stuff that happens. You’d like to have those opportunities over.”
On the stat sheet, Donegal out shot Palmyra 12-7. The corner battle was a toss-up, as each side was awarded nine.
“Our program and the longevity speaks for itself in that way,” said Harshman of the character and chemistry displayed by the Cougars this fall. “We stay together. We eat meals together. We were 29 of 30, coming here on the bus together.
“You would be hard-pressed to say that we’ve had a better team than we had in ’05,” concluded Harshman. “That was a senior-laden team that had a lot of talent. Since then we had teams people said were not going to get here. I think ’14, ’15 and ’16 will got down as some of the greatest talent we ever had at Palmyra. A lot of people didn’t expect this team to be here. But the experience is the same for every team. All the excitement. All the happiness. We had a great time getting here. The ride was been amazing.”
To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005, or to view more go to https://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/photo-gallery/.
Wyoming Valley West
|1:00 PM||W 4-0|
|11:00 AM||W 3-0|
|7:00 PM||T 0-0|
|2:00 PM||W 2-1|
|4:00 PM||W 12-0|
|3:45 PM||W 8-1|
|4:00 PM||W 2-0|
|4:00 PM||L 4-6|
|4:00 PM||W 6-0|
|12:00 PM||W 4-0|
|4:30 PM||W 3-0|
|7:30 PM||L 0-2|
|5:30 PM||W 7-0|
|6:00 PM||W 5-0|
@Wilson West Lawn
|5:30 PM||W 7-0|
|7:00 PM||W 8-0|
|11:00 AM||W 3-1|
|7:00 PM||W 4-1|
|3:00 PM||L 0-3|
@Mount St. Joseph
|5:00 PM||W 1-0|
|12:00 PM||W 2-1, OT|
@Wyoming Valley West
|6:00 PM||W 3-1|
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 AA Champions: 2005
Pa State AAA Co-Champions: 2014
Pa State AA Runner-Up: 2007
Pa State AAA Runner-Up 2015
PA State AAA Runner-Up 2016
Lebanon County History in
State Field Hockey Championship Games
2018 – Class AA – Donegal 1, Palmyra 0, OT
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