BY JEFF FALK
EMMAUS – There’s a lot of great things about playing in state championship games. But perhaps the best thing is that it’s the perfect place to realize awesome potential.
On a cold Tuesday evening at Emmaus High School’s Memorial Field, the Palmyra field hockey team turned potential into reality with a 3-1 triumph over Wyoming Valley West, in the semifinals of the PIAA Class AA postseason. The Cougars opened a 3-0 lead late in the first half, and then cruised to the state title tilt over the second 30 minutes of play.
With a goal and two assists, junior attacker Lauren Wadas figured in all three Cougar tallies.
The runner-up from District Three, Palmyra, now 19-5-1 on the season, qualified for its fourth state championship game in the last five years – and sixth overall. The Cougars will take on 27-1 Donegal, which whitewashed Twin Valley 2-0 in the other PIAA Class AA semifinal, on Saturday at noon at Whitehall-Coplay School District’s Zephyr Sports Complex.
On November 3rd at Milton Hershey School’s Henry Hershey Field, Donegal shut out Palmyra for the District Three Class AA championship.
All-time, the Cougars have gone 1-3-1 in previous state championship games.
The District Two champion Spartans, who saw their season end at 17-4-1, had advanced to the PIAA Class AA final in 2017.
“I wouldn’t say that. To say that would almost be a slap in the face for these girls,” said Palmyra head coach Kent Harshman, when asked if this current edition of the Cougars has overachieved. “I don’t know what other people think. But there’s no way I’d say that.
“We knew from Day One how talented this team was,” continued Harshman. “If you look at our roster, we can be perceived as young. But there’s senior leadership and there’s junior leadership. I think the optimum goal is to win the state championship. I also think it’s a tremendous accomplishment to reach the state championship game.”
“I wouldn’t say that yet,” said Wadas, to the overachieving notion. “We have a big game left. During the regular season, we played against teams like Hershey and Lower Dauphin. They’re great teams. That’s helped us out this postseason.”
Palmyra took the fight to Wyoming Valley West from the outset and scored on three of its four first-half shots. Included in that was a pair of goals scored 3:43 apart in the middle of the first half.
Wadas notched the first Cougar goal, 14:48 into the game, on a blast from the top of the circle that beat WVW goalie Sydney Rusnock inside the left post. Then Wadas turned play-maker, as Palmyra upped its advantage to 2-0.
Off a corner play, Wadas’ attempt was knocked down in front of the Wyoming Valley West net. But teammate Anna Miller was there to scoop it up and knock it home.
“We had film and we studied film,” said Harshman. “We saw things we thought we could take advantage of. We thought we had a good game plan, especially for our corners. I thought our corner package looked good.
“I thought we played a great first half,” Harshman continued. “It would be hard to find fault with anything we did. We got on our heels in the second half. I’ll take some blame for that. We coasted too much in the second half. In the end, the effort was such that we’re playing in a state championship game.”
“I got the ball on the dotted line,” said Wadas of her goal. “I saw a gap when I got the ball. I try to aim for corners and that’s where I hit it.”
Six minutes before intermission, the Cougars opened a three-goal lead, thanks to a collaboration between Wadas and Nicole Shank.
Again the play was initiated by a corner insert. From the right, Wadas uncorked a hard pass to the left post, which Shank simply tapped into the cage.
“I think the first half was about as well as we can play,” said Harshman. “We, as a staff, were extremely pleased. It was as good as any half we had this year.”
“I thought we played well,” said Wadas. “We knew we had to come out strong. The state final was on the line.”
After holding Wyoming Valley West without a shot or a corner in the first half, Palmyra encountered a similar fate in the second half. Though the outcome was never in doubt, the Cougars seemed content to sit on their cushion.
Wyoming Valley West generated its first shot of the game 3:15 into the second half and was awarded its first corner ten minutes later. Then with 10:10 remaining, WVW made it a 3-1 game on Rina Tsioles’ left-to-right, across-the-body tally.
“We didn’t change our alignment,” said Harshman of the second half. “We got on our heels. We weren’t as aggressive. We didn’t win 50-50 balls, and that matters.”
“I would say I’m a leader,” said Wadas of her role. “I have more experience. Our team is pretty young, but we’ve (the leaders) been here before.”
In the final tally, Wyoming Valley West actually out shot Palmyra 6-4. The corner battle went to the Cougars by a 6-3 count.
“We’re two years removed from our last state championship game, but there are a lot of new faces going,” said Harshman. “We’re always thrilled to go.
“I’ll tell you the exact game where we grew a lot,” added Harshman. “It was the third game of the year, against Lower Dauphin, we fought through overtime and we tied them. Some of our varsity players realized they could go toe-to-toe with anyone. I thought we took a huge step that night, and we continued to improve. We really saw growth and realized we had something special.”
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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||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|
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
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