BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Some chocolate is sweet and creamy. Others are more bitter and difficult to swallow.
Guess which one is better for you?
On Thursday afternoon in Chocolatetown, the Palmyra field hockey team endured a 1-0 shutout loss at the hands of its most bitter rival, Hershey. After failing to capitalize on some first-half opportunities, the Cougars surrendered an early second-half tally and then couldn’t generate enough offensive push to net the equalizer.
The setback dropped Palmyra to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Mid-Penn Conference. With the win, Hershey improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the division.
“It’s a pretty strong rivalry,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Harshmann, a former Cougar player herself. “Both programs have enjoyed some pretty good successes. Of course, they’re AAA and we’re AA. But you get up for a Hershey game, and that’s true of any sport ever played at Palmyra. You kind of have a chip on your shoulder. It’s a game you really want to win. If you lose, it stinks.
“Having Hershey and Lower Dauphin in your league makes it tough to have a good record,” Harshmann continued. “But if you can make it through it, it prepares you. Losses can prepare you more than wins. Now we can go back to the drawing board and learn how to beat Hershey and Lower Dauphin.”
“We played eight games and won all eight games,” said Hershey head coach John Scola. “It’s a long season. 8-0 doesn’t mean anything if you end up 8-8. Every game you play, you play as hard as you can, and you don’t look ahead.”
The only goal of the contest resulted from some sustained pressure by the Trojans, 6:28 into the second half.
Hershey High worked the ball into the Cougars’ defensive circle, and out of a scramble the Trojans managed to cross the ball in front of Palmyra netminder Nicole Berger. Freshman Lisa Winter was there for the Trojans to slam it home.
“We tried to knock it out, but we couldn’t get a stick on it,” said Harshmann. “They (the Trojans) finished. Today was not our best performance. You’ve got to credit your opponent. Hershey came to play. They put us under a lot of pressure. We just weren’t sharp as we have been.
“Today, it was just disappointing,” Harshmann added. “We were out played. We got beat. As a coach, that’s hard to take.”
“I thought for the most part, we played well,” said Scola. “Sonya (goalie, Torres) came up big for us in the first half. We marked very well. But we can play better and I’m sure the girls feel the same way.”
The weren’t many scoring opportunities on either side, but the Trojans certainly enjoyed the better of the play. Hershey out shot Palmyra 10-5, while the Cougars took eight penalty corners to the Trojans’ five.
“Offensively, we played terrible,” said Harshmann. “We had one shot according to the scorebook. We just weren’t connecting. We were trying to force the ball in the midfield. But we weren’t setting up our teammates for success.
“Well, I guess we’re frustrated a little bit,” Harshmann continued. “I don’t think we’re playing to our potential right now. We have a lot of seniors, but we don’t have a lot of experience. I guess I’m hoping we’re still in the beginning stages of our season.”
“We feel defense is played by all eleven people on the field,” said Scola. “For the most part, we did that today. Palmyra is an excellent team. They keep coming at you. But I thought our defensive corners were exceptional.
“Palmyra is a great team,” Scola added. “A great program. Any time you beat them, it’s a great win.”
So as the season approaches the midway point, Palmyra has plenty of time – and plenty of room – to grow.
“We weren’t really sure how the season was going to go,” said Harshmann. “We have a huge senior class, but we lost a lot too. We lost two all-Americans and you don’t replace them. We have a lot of younger kids playing.
“We have the capability to be a very good team,” Harshmann concluded. “It’s a more distributed focus this year, more in the team sense. I’m hopeful these are just growing pains and that we’ll peak at the right time. Our goal is to make it to the post-season and have a good run.”