BY JEFF FALK
LANDISVILLE – It may be that the success of the Palmyra field hockey program has created some unrealistic expectations. But there’s also another way to look at it.
Thirteen wins. A 26th straight District Three appearance. And memories that will last a lifetime. The truest test of a program’s success is what it accomplishes in a ‘down year’ – if such a thing even exists for the Cougars.
On a glorious Saturday afternoon at Hempfield High School, Palmyra’s uncharacteristic campaign reached a head, with a somewhat disappointing 3-0 loss to mighty Penn Manor, in the quarterfinal round of the District Three Class AAA tournament. The Cougars played with the talented Comets at times, but never generated a shot on goal.
Not only is Palmyra the top athletic program in Lebanon County, it is also one of the finest field hockey program’s in the state. The Cougars had reached the last three PIAA Class AAA championship games, including 2014 when it played Penn Manor to a one-all draw.
With the loss, the ninth-seeded Cougars ended their year with a 13-6-1 overall mark. Palmyra fell a win short of qualifying for the state tournament, for just the third time in the last 19 seasons.
Penn Manor, the number-one seed and one of this season’s top state championship contenders, remained undefeated at 22-0.
“We have some core values in our program,” said Palmyra head coach Kristi Costello. “Maybe we didn’t have as talented a team, but we had heart. When you have those core values, it allows you to compete. We moved some kids around. But they (her players) trusted us (the coaches) and they kept trying.
“I was proud we made it to districts,” continued Costello. “I wish we had a higher seed. Yes (Palmyra might have been able to make it to states in a different part of the bracket). You don’t want to meet up with Penn Manor in an elimination game. But I don’t think they wanted to meet up with us in the quarterfinals either. We have a lot of respect for their program.”
Though a single corner was all that the Cougar offense was able to muster all afternoon, Palmyra was either even with or within a goal of the Comets for a good portion of the action. The Comets had assumed a 1-0 edge 13:54 into the contest, on a goal from Gabby Butts.
The play originated from the right side with a service from Anna May Barbuca. Once on her stick, Butts had time to size up Cougar goalie Ava Kristich, before beating her to the short side with a quick wrister.
“I don’t think we played sharp in the first half,” said Costello. “But we came alive with about two minutes left in the first half. We were a little intimidated at first. We were able to make a game of it. They have such a fast team and they have a lot of dangerous players.
“Defensively, we had a great game,” Costello continued. “I thought our defense on corners did a great job. It was almost like it was a surprise when we got the ball, and it made it hard to attack.”
The score stayed 1-0 until 10:53 into the second half, when Briana Harsh struck for the Comets.
From the right, teammate Alyssa Schriver sent a long ball across the circle that caromed off the left goal post. Harsh was there to collect it and slide the ball under a diving Kristich.
“We got better as the year went on,” said Costello. “I’d like to have a few more weeks to continue to get better.
“I don’t think this sits well with some of our younger kids,” Costello added. “They’re going to want to work hard in the off-season. I’d like to see some of them grow as leaders.”
With Costello employing her troops “Come on black, keep fighting’, Penn Manor began to pile up the corners in the second half. With 6:29 remaining, that persistent pressure paid off.
From a corner play, Comet Hannah Brown unleashed a good drive from the top of the circle. Bitts got a piece of the shot in front of Kristich, to redirect it home.
“I would’ve liked to have been able to knock off one of the higher seeds, and make it to states.” said Costello. “We had some good games in there. We competed. We took some growing pains this year. But they (her players) learned through the course of the season.”
The Comets produced 11 shots on goal and collected a total of 14 penalty corners – 11 of which came in the second half.
“I don’t let my daughter beat me in Candy Land. She has to earn it,” said Costello. “My husband and I are both very competitive. I just wanted my team to believe in themselves. If they go down swinging, so be it. I wanted them to go down swinging, and have fun doing it.
“If you’re going to show up, you’re going to play hard,” concluded Costello. “Or you don’t show up at all. They (her players) heard that at halftime. They’re high school kids. They want to please you.”
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|4:00 PM||W 7-0|
Owen J. Roberts
|3:30 PM||W 2-0|
|4:00 PM||W 7-0|
|10:00 AM||W 5-1|
|7:00 PM||L 2-3|
|4:00 PM||W 3-1|
|11:00 AM||L 1-2|
|4:00 PM||L 0-1|
|4:00 PM||W 6-1|
|9:00 AM||W 5-0|
|2:00 PM||W 3-2|
|4:15 PM||W 4-1|
|7:00 PM||L 2-4|
|9:00 AM||W 3-1|
|4:00 PM||W 5-0|
|7:30 PM||T 1-1|
|7:00 PM||L 3-4|
|5:30 PM||W 8-0|
|7:00 PM||W 3-2|
|1:00 PM||L 0-3|
PIAA District Three
Class AAA Power Rankings
|20||J P McCaskey||3-||15-||0||0.349474||0.187500||0.547443||3.0||177.7||13.0||146.9|
|21||Central Dauphin East||4-||14-||0||0.316440||0.217391||0.437500||4.0||144.2||14.4||185.4|
|24||York Country Day School||1-||6-||0||0.206004||0.114286||0.318103||0.8||36.9||6.2||79.1|
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