BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Athletic programs are kind of like churches. They’re not really about the buildings or the structures, they’re more about the people and the members.
And the identities of one are so closely tied to the other that sometimes they’re difficult to distinguish from each other.
On a warm Wednesday night at Milton Hershey School’s Henry Hershey Field, the latest group of Palmyra field hockey players paid homage to the Cougar program, with a 4-1 victory over Manheim Central, in what only seemed like an annual trip to the District Three Class AA semifinals. Palmyra set the tone for the contest with a pair of early goals 3:54 apart, then finished off the Barons with a couple of tallies in the final seven minutes of the contest.
The outcome lifted second-seeded Palmyra, which improved to 16-4-1 overall, into yet another District Three Class AA championship tilt. On Saturday at 3 p.m. back at Henry Hershey Field, the Cougars will be making their 11 District Three final appearance over the last 20 years, when they take on once-beaten and top-seed Donegal, a 6-1 victor over Twin Valley in the other semi.
With the loss, Manheim Central, the sixth-seed, fell to 15-7 on the fall.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the program,” said Palmyra head coach Kent Harshman. “But more important to me is the fact that each group is unique. There’s nothing like seeing these kids do well, and the joy in their eyes from the hard work. It’s great we have a good program. But to me, it’s about the kids.
“To me what’s tremendous is how young we are and how much we’ve matured,” continued Harshman. “Our starting line-up contains four freshmen. Usually you’re not as successful when you’re this young. And I’m not solely focusing on the freshmen. My point is that overall, we’re a young team. That bodes well for the future. All of those things are going into defining this year.”
Certainly getting out to a fast start helped put momentum in the Cougars’ corner for the entire contest. And it was Palmyra stars Mia Julian and Lauren Wadas who put their best feet forward.
A mere 3:49 into the game, Julian accepted a feed from Skylar Dise and scored on a nice shot to put Palmyra up 1-0. Then less than four minutes later, Wadas got into the act with an unassisted tally that would prove to be the game-winner.
“It’s always nice to get ahead,” said Harshman. “Then you can change your play to play down hill. But I felt we took our foot off the accelerator. It’s not about piling up the goals. It’s about continuing to be sharp.”
Manheim Central got a goal from Codi Bollinger – a long shot from the top of the circle through a maze of attackers and defenders – with 10:53 remaining, to shave Palmyra’s lead in half. It was the Barons’ first and only shot of the game.
But the Cougars answered with tallies from Julian and Anna Miller, 2:52 apart, four minutes later.
Julian scored on a corner play she inserted, to extend Palmyra’s advantage to 3-1. From the left post, she deflected home Wadas’ hard pass/shot.
Miller netted a tick-tack-toe goal with 4:01 remaining to close out the scoring. Off another corner, the ball pin-balled from the top of the circle to teammate Nicole Shank on the right, to Miller in the center of the goal mouth.
“We played well in spurts,” said Harshman. “The first eight to ten minutes was outstanding. The last ten to 15 minutes we picked it up. But in between, it was sloppy. We’re young. When you get right down to it, the stiffer the competitive you have, the more sharp you’ve got to be, every shot, every moment, every shift.
“We were getting some great looks and some great shots (from corner plays),” added Harshman. “And we talked about tips.”
Palmyra enjoyed 6-0 advantages in shots and corners in the first half, then added seven more shots and six more corners over the second 30 minutes of action.
“It’s no secret,” said Harshman of the daunting task Donegal will pose in Saturday afternoon’s District Three final. “They’re (the Indians) outstanding. We’ll work on improving in practice. We’ll show up on Saturday, we’ll knock it around for 60 minutes and see what happens.”
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2018 Palmyra Field Hockey Results
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||Milton Hershey School|
PIAA District Three
Class AA Power Rankings
|3||East Pennsboro Area||15-||3-||0||0.689686||0.818182||0.532636||14.4||168.1||3.2||147.5|
|4||Berks Catholic School||14-||3-||0||0.659465||0.792208||0.497224||12.2||143.3||3.2||144.9|
|22||Mechanicsburg Area Senior||5-||13-||0||0.419834||0.285714||0.583758||4.8||183.3||12.0||130.7|
|23||West York Area||6-||11-||1||0.403375||0.322222||0.502562||5.8||156.9||12.2||155.3|
|31||Spring Grove Area||3-||14-||1||0.327700||0.205882||0.476588||3.5||148.6||13.5||163.2|
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